Original illustration for Alice in Wonderland: "The Gryphon".1865 Stock Code: 138680
NotesTenniel's original drawing for the sleeping Gryphon, used by the engravers for the 1865 first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, where it appears on p. 138. Carroll gave Tenniel the exact measurements of each image as they were to fit on the page around the text. The drawings were then traced onto woodblocks and engraved by the Dalziel Brothers. The final stage in the reproduction process was to make electrotype plates from the woodblocks, using them as masters. The electrotype plates were used for the actual printing. There were enormous difficulties preserving Tenniel's delicate pencilwork throughout this process, and Carroll famously cancelled the 1865 first edition on account of its poorly-reproduced illustrations. Tenniel worked primarily in pencil, and when one sees at first hand the extreme delicacy of line and tone in Tenniel's original, one must have some sympathy for the engravers and printers.
When Schiller compiled his index identifying and locating the original drawings for Alice and Looking-Glass in 1990, this sleeping gryphon was recorded as "unlocated"; of the original 42 drawings for Alice listed in Schiller's census, 11 remain unlocated by him; the majority are held institutionally or bound into the Macmillan "file copy".
In his time, Tenniel was most famous his political cartoons, as the top artist for Punch. However, "the general public knows him now only for his illustrations in the Alice books, an irony not lost on historians. For when as an established artist he undertook to illustrate the first Alice book by an unknown author and lent his established reputation to the venture, he knew, of course, that his name would demand critical attention for the book and would in great measure be responsible for any success it might meet with... today Tenniel, having 'raised the political cartoon to a new level of dignity and importance... is one of the best known of all English book illustrators solely because his drawings are inseparable from Lewis Carroll's immortal Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass'" (Cohen and Wakeling, pp. 10-11).
Original artwork in pencil. Approx. image size 85 x 60 mm with large margins all round. John Tenniel's monogram to the lower right. Mounted, glazed and framed.
Portion of backing from previous mount cut round and retained, with ink inscription of Mr & Mrs Ben Wolf; framers' label of Kennedy & Co. Rare Prints, 693 & 5th Ave.; later sticker of Newman Galleries, Philadelphia.
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