Early Books

"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

Alice Underground

Alice's Adventures Underground. Illustrated by Lewis Carroll.

Early Editions of Alice

By the time Lewis Carroll presented his manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground to Alice Liddell in November 1864, he had already begun expanding the story and removing some Oxford-specific references in order to publish it for a broader audience. He had lent it to several people, including his friend Scottish author George MacDonald, whose 6-year-old son Greville exclaimed, “there ought to be sixty thousand volumes of it.”

Carroll realized that his own self-described “crude designs” were not artistic enough for a published book. He approached John Tenniel to provide artwork for his reworked tale, now titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Tenniel was an established illustrator and a political cartoonist for the British humor magazine Punch. The two worked closely together throughout the illustration process. On December 16, 1864, Tenniel sent Carroll the first 12 proofs for illustrations. By June of the next year, Tenniel had completed the 42 drawings that would appear in the final published book.

Carroll arranged with Macmillan and Co. to publish Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which he financed himself, using Oxford University’s Clarendon Press as the printer. However, Tenniel was displeased with the clarity of the illustrations in the initial printing of 2,000 copies. Carroll sold most of these rejected copies to the firm of D. Appleton in New York, who published them with a new title page dated 1866. Only 23 copies of the rejected first printing with the original 1865 title page are known to have survived.

Meanwhile in London, Macmillan and Co. forged ahead with a new printer, Richard Clay, who reprinted the book to Tenniel’s satisfaction in November 1865. This second printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a great success, selling more than 5,000 copies in England in its first year.

Carroll was so pleased with Tenniel’s artwork that he asked him to illustrate his second Alice story. Published in November 1871, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There proved wildly successful. The initial printing of 9,000 copies flew off booksellers’ shelves.

Select a title below to explore early editions of Alice.