Bodleian marks 150 years of Alice in Wonderland with special display and fun Alice's Day activities

1 July 2015

Alice in WonderlandThe Bodleian Libraries is hosting a special 8-week display to celebrate 150 years of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in print. Visitors are invited to join in the fun on Alice's Day and beyond.

Visitors can see the first three editions of Lewis Carroll's magical children's book at the Printing Alice display, which opens on 1 July at the Bodleian's newly refurbished Weston Library on Broad Street. The free display also includes fantastical illustrations by Salvador Dali, produced for a special edition of Alice in Wonderland, and a range of images by Alice illustrator John Tenniel that chart his career and influence beyond Carroll's much-loved story. 

'The display celebrates 150 years since the first printing of Alice and we’ll be showing the immensely rare first edition, which was suppressed shortly after publication,' said Dr Francesca Galligan, Rare Books Assistant Librarian, who curated the display.

The Alice story began life on a trip down the river in Oxford on 4 July 1862. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) presented a copy to Alice Liddell as an early Christmas present on 26 November 1864 (view the manuscript online on the British Library website). Alice was first printed in Oxford by the Clarendon Press and 2,000 copies were published in June 1865. Charles Dodgson requested 50 copies to be bound early for him to inscribe and send to friends, but a month later, the book's illustrator John Tenniel complained about the 'disgraceful' quality of the printing. The edition was supressed, and Dodgson agreed to have the book reprinted in London. He recalled the copies sent out to his friends, and sent them to children's homes. The Bodleian's first edition is one of just 23 of these original copies to Alice in Wonderlandsurvive, and had been sent by Dodgson to St Raphael's children's home in Torquay. The Libraries was given the rare edition in 1986 by the writer Roger Lancelyn Green.

'Seeing the first three editions alongside each other, you can really see what Tenniel didn't like about the printing of the original illustrations and the marked improvements in the 1866 edition,' Galligan said.

In addition to the Printing Alice display, which runs from 1 July until 23 August, Alice in Wonderland fans are invited to join in with a range of fun activities at the Weston Library as part of Alice's Day on Saturday, 4 July. This city-wide celebration is an annual event coordinated by The Story Museum and supported by the City Council.

Activities at the Weston Library on Alice's Day, Saturday 4 July:

  • Visit thePrinting Alice display (9am-5pm).
  • Listen to curators giving 5-minute pop-up talks about the display throughout the day.
  • Print your own Alice keepsake using the Bodleian's historic printing press (11am-4pm).
  • Seek 'Advice from the Caterpillar' through a unique one-to-one experience with Teatro Vivo's caterpillar (11am-1pm).
  • See Emaki-mono scrolls and animations of Alice by Japanese artist Hiroko Hanna, which will be display on the large screen in the Weston Library. Emaki-mono is a traditional Japanese art form that combines text and pictures.
  • Enjoy Alice-themed cakes in the Bodleian Café, run by award-winning caterers Benugo.
  • Visit the Alice's Day information stall outside the Weston Library for information about other fun activities happening across Oxford.

A full listing of Alice's Day activities across Oxford can be found on the The Story Museum website.

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