The Alice in Wonderland exhibition opens at the British Library to mark the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. It features first illustrations by John Tenniel, and an entry from Carroll’s diary detailing the “golden afternoon” on 4 July 1862 when as Charles Dodgson he told his story to the three daughters of Carroll’s good friend Harry Liddell — Edith (8), Alice (10), and Lorina (13).
The exhibition explores the different ways in which generations of illustrators, artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers have interpreted the story and characters over the past 150 years.
New illustrated editions of the story often mirror the period in which they were created, from Mabel Lucie Attwell’s endearingly rosy-cheeked Alice of 1910 and Charles Robinson’s art nouveau style, to Salvador Dalí’s surrealist lithographs inspired by Carroll’s story and Mervyn Pearke’s darker vision of Wonderland born out of his experiences during the Second World War.
We’ve compiled some of what we think are the best illustrations of the great work of fiction.
All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.
Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale of breath too weak
To stir the tiniest feather!
Yet what can one poor voice avail
Against three tongues together?
Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict to “begin it”:
In gentler tones Secunda hopes
“There will be nonsense in it!”
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.
Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast —
And half believe it true.
And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
“The rest next time—” “It is next time!”
The happy voices cry.
Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out—
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.
Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand,
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s wither’d wreath of flowers
Pluck’d in far-off land.