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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

With forty-two illustrations by John Tenniel.

London: Macmillan and Co., 1866 Stock Code: 127698
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Rare presentation copy of the first published edition

First published edition, rare presentation copy, inscribed by the author to one of his child-friends on the half-title, "Ella Chlora Williams from the author", together with three letters from the author mounted on the third, fourth, and fifth blanks.

Ella Chlora Faithfull Bickersteth (née Monier-Williams, 1859-1954) was the only daughter of Sir Monier Monier-Williams, the second Boden Professor of Sanskrit the University of Oxford, where Charles Dodgson, who wrote under the pen-name Lewis Carroll, taught mathematics. Dodgson first mentions meeting Ella in his diary entry for 1 May 1866: "Dined at Prof. Monier Williams's. We had each called on the other twice, but never met before. I thought him pleasant, and Mrs. Williams particularly so. Also I saw the little Ella, whom I had noticed before, and wished to photograph" (Diaries, vol. V, p. 146). Dodgson took several photographs of little Ella between May and July 1866, a few months after Alice's Adventures was first published (see below). The photographs included some of Ella wearing items of clothing borrowed from the Ashmolean Museum, held today in the Pitt Rivers Museum. Bickersteth recalled the photography sessions later in life: "among my earliest recollections is being taken by my mother to his rooms in Tom Quad at Christ Church, again and again, to be photographed by him in some mood, costume, or attitude which caught his fancy or in which his discerning eye saw the unconscious expression of childish pleasure, hope, or awe" (Collingwood, p. 224).

Dodgson refers to these photographs in the first of the three letters contained in this copy. On 31 January 1879, Dodgson writes to Bickersteth's mother, Julia Monier-Williams, to congratulate her on the news of Ella's engagement to the Revd. Dr Canon Samuel Bickersteth, and suggest that one of his photographs might be gifted to Ella's fiancé: "if Miss Williams wishes to present him with any photographs of my doing of which the negative still exists, it will gratify me if she will accept prints of them (if you have not enough of them)". The other two letters are from the following year, directly from Dodgson to Bickersteth (still Miss Williams; she married in 1881). The first of the letters, dated 25 February, is a facsimile circular letter, opening and closing in autograph ("My dear Ella... yours electrically and affectionately C. L. Dodgson"). In it, Dodgson requests that she set him a word puzzle of chain-words ("made on words of from 3 to 6 letters... There should always be some connection in meaning between the first word and the last"). The second, dated 29 April 1880, is an autograph letter signed from him, expressing mock-horror at the manner in which she closes her letters: "it is a great shock to my sensitive feelings to find young ladies (of a certain age and engaged) persist in signing themselves 'very affectionately'". Dodgson proceeds invites her to tea ("that unwholesome thing"), comparing his composition of the letter to "an elephant doing crochet", and asks her to bring "the infants you mention, if you think it would... serve, even for an hour, to lessen their sadness".

Dodgson's friendship with Bickersteth, as evidenced in these teasing letters, was unusual for its continuation into her adult life. Dodgson, who met some "200 or 300 children", noted that his child-friendships often evolved into a distant acquaintance as the child grew up: "usually the child becomes so entirely a different being as she grows into a woman that our friendship has to change too: and that it usually does by sliding down, from a loving intimacy, into an acquaintance that merely consists of a bow and a smile when we meet!" (Letter, 31 March 1890). Bickersteth herself remarked on the fact that she was "one of the 'children' whose love for him endured into adulthood" (Collingwood, p. 222). At seventy years old, when it was announced that Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was to be sold at auction, Bickersteth was one of a number of people who wrote to The Times to express the hope that the manuscript would remain in Britain. In her letter, she recalled her final interaction with the author: "the last time I saw Mr. Dodgson, not long before his death, was at the Indian Institute at Oxford when, full of his characteristic teasing, as usual, he tried to prove to me, the mother of six sons, how infinitely superior he considered girls to boys; and that was indeed a settled conviction he was always ready to defend" (Bickersteth, 1928).

The book was originally printed in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in June 1865, but suppressed when Dodgson heard that the book's illustrator was dissatisfied with the quality of the printing. He recalled the few pre-publication copies he had sent out to his friends and donated them to hospitals, where most perished. Only 23 of those original "1865 Alices" are now extant, mostly in institutional holdings, thus creating one of the most famous black tulips of book collecting. It was entirely reset by Richard Clay for this authorized Macmillan edition which, although dated 1866, was in fact ready in time for the 1865 Christmas market. Dodgson received copies for presentation in November 1865, and in his diary recorded 76 names of those who received presentation copies, with Ella Williams's name twenty-third on the list. "Most have the inscription '... from the author' and rarely contain a date although dating his inscription became Dodgson's practice in subsequent books" (Wakeling, p. 19). Only a handful of presentation copies of the first published edition have appeared in commerce.

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Octavo (178 x 117 mm). Recent red morocco by Bayntun-Riviere of Bath, title to spine gilt, edges gilt, marbled endpapers, with, mounted on three blanks: autograph letter, pp. 3, bifolium, signed from the author to Mrs Julia Monier-Williams, dated 31 January 1879; facsimile circular letter, one page, signed in autograph from the author to Ella Monier-Williams, Oxford, dated 25 February 1880; autograph letter, pp. 3, bifolium, signed from the author to Ella Monier-Williams, Oxford, dated 29 April 1880, envelope laid onto following leaf. Housed in a custom red cloth slipcase.


Frontispiece with tissue-guard and 41 illustrations by John Tenniel.


A little scattered foxing and soiling, small ink stains to seventh blank and half-title, tiny repair to tip of frontispiece and p. 19 (partly affecting text). A very good copy, attractively bound.


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