Can you believe it’s been 150 years since the publication of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’? To celebrate this much-loved story and its big anniversary, The British Library is showcasing an exhibition that looks at exactly how Alice has captured our hearts and imagination for so long. We check it out and see what people think…
Words: Bea Renshaw, Subeditors: Costanza Maraffio, Keziah Leary
Written by English author Lewis Carroll in 1865, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ – commonly known as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – tells the tale of a girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world. Filled with anthropomorphic creatures, twisted characters and peculiar imagery, the novel’s popularity lies in the way it plays with logic.
The idea for the story came to Carroll when he was on a boating trip in Oxford with friends. Also onboard was a young girl named Alice Liddell, who asked him to entertain her and her sisters with a story. It was in that very moment (some call it the ‘golden afternoon’) that the ‘Wonderland’ was created. This ‘real’ Alice was Carroll’s main inspiration, and she begged him to write it up as a book. Carroll gave her the manuscript two years later, which she went on to sell to an American collector for a mere £15,000.
It’s not just the words that made this literary classic what it is today, it is also the original illustrations by John Tenniel. Carroll knew Tenniel for his political cartoon drawings in Punch magazine, and asked him to contribute his illustrations towards the book.
Today, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is one of the most influential pieces of literature and culture. And because of this, has been adapted and re-illustrated many, many times. It has inspired generations of writers and illustrators, as well as fashion designers, filmmakers, artists and computer game designers.
The British Library‘s new ‘Alice in Wonderland’ exhibition begins with Carroll’s very first vision’s of Alice, before taking you through a variety of adaptations of the tale. See up-close Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript and illustrations from 150 years ago, as well as editions by Salvador Dali, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard and many more. (And yes, the Walt Disney classic is there too!)
The exciting exhibition uses fragments of the classic illustrations and red/black/white mismatched typography, to create an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme throughout. Well-known quotes from the book are dotted around the walls too, as well props such as pink flamingos and an upside down Alice. Wind around the dimly-lit path of the exhibition, which quite literally makes you feel as though you are falling down a rabbit hole.
Not only are the original editions there to see, but there’s also a variety of Alice-inspired multi-media. This includes a selection of video games, which can be picked up and played! There’s an Alice-inspired vintage tea caddie and tea cup, toys, dolls and various other memorabilia.
As it’s been 150 years since the very first publication, we asked those at the exhibition some Alice-related questions:
Did seeing the original drawings change your opinion of the ‘Alice’ you know today?
What does ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mean to you?
What was your favourite part of the exhibition?
The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ exhibition is open at The British Library on Euston Road, from 20th November 2015 – 17th April 2016. Entry is free. Also, the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ pop-up shop is open in Entrance Hall, from 21st October 2015 – 31st January 2016.