Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland comes alive in London exhibition

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Dec 19, 2015 12:26 IST
The Wonderland postage stamp case designed by Lewis Carroll (1889-1890). (Picture courtesy: The British Library Board)

The story that inspired and entertained generations has come alive in a major exhibition at the British Library, marking 150 years of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and highlighting the enduring power of Lewis Carroll’s words.

The exhibition until April 2016 includes Carroll’s original story and the first illustrations by John Tenniel, exploring how the story of the girl who went “down the rabbit hole” continues to entertain.

One of the British Library’s most loved treasures, Carroll’s iconic handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and an entry from Carroll’s diary detailing the “golden afternoon” on July 4, 1862, when he first told the story to Alice Liddell and her sisters, provides the starting point for the exhibition.

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, a release from the library said.

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 World War 2.

Exhibition highlights include the original handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground with 37 carefully drawn illustrations by Carroll; two first editions of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by John Tenniel, including the suppressed first edition which was recalled due to Carroll and Tenniel’s dissatisfaction with the quality of the illustrations.

It also includes the first movie adaption of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a silent film from 1903 by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and charming early Alice memorabilia including wooden figurines, tea tins and a postage stamp case.

Helen Melody, curator of the exhibition, said, “Ever since its conception, the story of Alice has been analysed, appropriated, re-imagined and re-illustrated, and yet despite undergoing so much change, it remains remarkably true to what had been Carroll’s original story.”

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