Alice’s Adventures Underground at the British Library

Alice UndergroundThe British Library holds the manuscript of Charles Dodgson’s Alice’s Adventures Underground (1864), the forerunner to his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which he published in 1865 under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. On the library’s website, you can leaf through the 90-page book and view Dodgson’s 37 illustrations. How does the experience of reading the story in this format differ from the experience of reading it in a typeset edition on paper, or as plain or formatted text on a screen?

In class, we discussed the 1903 silent film version of Alice. You can find that at the Internet Archive.

2 Replies to “Alice’s Adventures Underground at the British Library”

  1. I think that being accompanied by the illustrations, the text was not only given more of a storybook feeling, but really allowed the wild, dream-like and nonsensical images to really sink in. By providing us with a representation of *some* of the images, I think it provokes our imaginations to form representations that are our own, but that are also guided by a prescribed style that is seen in the illustrator’s depictions. Thus, at least for me in my reading, I got to witness all the events as they came along the pages, but with the added wonder of visuals, as the original author and illustrator most likely intended.

    What also happened in my reading was that I sometimes reverted to a more familiar version of Alice, Disney’s version (when no illustration came with the text). In short, the images of the Disney movie somewhat conflicted with the images I saw on the pages, which didn’t take away from what I imagined, but merely made it different. Images can alter individual experiences

    I think that the guidance of the original illustrations may add to the effect of authenticity one may get when reading the original text, and so our own conceptualization when reading plain text may be entirely different (for example, reverting to Disney, or, if not disney, then an original conception of the imagery). For me, the bizarreness of each line is the most important, lending to the dream; images only enhance the experience in this regard.

    **The copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that I read was a Dover Thrift Edition, complete with Lewis Carroll’s 1865 text and original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. So, the illustrations, however different from Dodgson’s, still bore the same effect on the text.

  2. I went back recently having seen this post. My text of Alice is one that includes paratextual commentary and Tenniel’s illustrations. I noted a few significant differences. First, Dodgson’s illustrations are surrounded by his text, while mine has them featured on their own. They take the text’s place, rather than having the text surround it. I also noted that Dodgson/Carroll’s creatures were more animalistic. Tenniel gives most of the animals human bodies, while Dodgson does not. Finally, Dodgson’s illustrations seem to include less background, less setting. Perhaps this reflects his abilities as an artist. But it could also reflect a conscious choice that we ourselves should conceive what Wonderland itself looks like.

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