150 Years of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland at The Ransom Center

Quite a long time ago, 150 years in fact, down down down the rabbit hole little Alice went, and when she came out again she was not the same person as went in. Not at all! Her curiously wonderful journey, filled with as many rash impulses and poor choices as any adolescent’s life could possibly be, has somehow wound its way from the little boat on The Isis, where Lewis Carroll first invented the story in 1863, up through the tendrils of culture and time to become one of the world’s most beloved stories. First published in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has never been out of print, and has inspired countless artists to create their own interpretations of Alice and her curious companions.

Currently here in Austin, Texas, The Ransom Center hosts “150 Years of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, which celebrates Lewis Carroll the author and photographer, his enduring classic and the artwork it has inspired.

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Lewis Carroll (the pen name for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) initially illustrated his story, the manuscript of which was given to the real life Alice that inspired it in 1864, and which still exists (owned by The British Library). But feeling his own illustrations were not suitable for publication he approached illustrator John Tenniel, who created the iconic images we know today.

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John Tenniel’s illustration of the Mad Hatter Tea Party

But after the copyright expired is when the madness really begins, and this is where the exhibit truly shines. Arthur Rackham, Will Pogany, Ralph Steadman, Max Ernst, Peter Blake, and Salvador Dali are among the notable artists that are represented in this exhibit. The Dali illustrations, for me, were the most surprising and the most beautiful!

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A page from the Salvador Dali edition, 1969
Salvador Dali edition, 1969
Salvador Dali edition, 1969
Ralph Steadman edition, 1967
Ralph Steadman edition, 1967

The wall display of international cover art can give some idea of the breadth of styles Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has inspired, and how far its influence has reached.

International covers
International covers

In addition to the numerous illustrated and international editions of the book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been adapted into nearly a dozen formats – e.g. comics, films, plays, poems, etc – and has been referenced countless times in popular culture. “Follow the white rabbit”, metaphorically speaking can mean different things to different people, but everyone knows what you are referencing when you say it.

Alice Pop-Up Book
Alice Pop-Up Book

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Marvel Comic
Marvel Comic
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Political Parody

And, of course, there are paintings and prints and all kind of other curious works of art that simply stand apart.

Maggie Taylor print, 2008
Maggie Taylor print, 2008

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Sadly, my favorite edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by artist Camille Rose Garcia (2010), was not included:

Illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia
Illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia

Hopefully by now you’ve got the urge to visit this incredible exhibit. Or perhaps, like me, you’ve been inspired to revisit the book and read it again, either to your own children or just to experience it as an adult (which could be considered yet another curious state of being). Book People has a number of beautiful editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on our shelves (and even more we can order for you). Click HERE to see a list!

And if that weren’t enough, we’ve also got such a number of lovely Alice themed gift items too:

Alice gift display in the Book Kids section!
Alice gift display in the Book Kids section!
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Notecards, breath mints and coffee mugs! Very adult things, indeed!

Finally, two Lewis Carroll related books are coming to the shelves this summer.

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First, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland is being release in June of this year. Written by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, a Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, The Story of Alice dives into the complex history of Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell (the child who inspired the story), and the shifting cultural landscape in which they lived.

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And second, The Photographs of Lewis Carroll: A Catalogue Raisonne, to be published by UT Press in August 2015. Containing nearly 1,000 photographs, this catalogue confirms Carroll’s status as one of the most important amateur photographers of the Victorian era, and the period’s finest photographer of children.

Both are available to pre-order on the Book People website.

3 thoughts on “150 Years of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland at The Ransom Center

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