On Being an Alice Fan Right Now,
Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

h1 March 10th, 2010 by jules

Well, I mentioned earlier, dear readers, that Chronicle Books was releasing a most lovely illustrated paperback edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, originally published (as hardcover) in 2000. This was back when I noted what a good time it is to be an Alice fan. Due to the new Tim Burton film adaptation (which, no, I haven’t seen; it will likely be a DVD-watch for me), the lit-minded folks of the world are all AliceAliceAlice right about now. This is good for us geeky fans, who consider it one of our desert-island-type reads.

{Pictured here is Gertrude Kay’s depiction of Wonderland, circa 1923.}

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic Illustrated Edition was compiled by Cooper Edens, who owns an impressive collection of rare and antique picture books, one of the largest in the world. Excuse me, but SWOON. ….Where was I? Right. Chronicle has released this 2010 paperback edition and did I mention it’s lovely? Edens explains in the preface how he chose with “great care and deep reverence” the illustrations in this edition. He adds:

…there is no singular vision of Wonderland. In researching the visual history of {the book}, and the many different artists it has enchanted, I discovered that each artist focused on different elements of Lewis Carroll’s story…For me, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a book so incredibly faceted that its many secrets begin to shine only when these distinct interpretations are brought together.

It’s with that mindset that he sets forth to re-visit Carroll’s tale with a variety of takes on the bizarro world that is Wonderland. Most of these are illustrations from the turn of the last century. No contemporary adaptations here (my three favorites being Helen Oxenbury’s, Lisbeth Zwerger’s, and Robert Sabuda’s — those are in no particular order, ’cause like hell could I rate those beautiful books). The art of Honor C. Appleton, Maria L. Kirk, Peter Newell, Charles Robinson, John Tenniel, Arthur Rackham, Besse Pease Guttman, and many more illustrators grace the pages.

The below images are not taken from this title, but I couldn’t help but pull some vintage Alice images for this post. If one were to be comprehensive about this, one could quite possibly write The World’s Longest Post. There are a lot of beautiful, old Alice images. Here are just some…


Illustration by Marjorie Torrey, circa 1955

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith, circa 1923

Illustration from A.E. Jackson, circa 1915

Illustration from Arthur Rackham, circa 1907

Illustration from Gwynedd M. Hudson, circa 1922

Illustration by Bessie Pease Gutmann, circa 1907

The one and only Tenniel, circa 1865

Note: The spirited force of nature that is Little Willow also covers this book today here at her blog.

Ed. to Add: Kelly Fineman also covered it on Tuesday of this week.

20 comments to “On Being an Alice Fan Right Now,
Part Two: Electric Boogaloo”

  1. Oh wow. Just lovely. All of them. The Newell with the Mock Turtle reminds me how sad I used to get for that character.

  2. So many pretty things…

  3. Swoon, love these old Alice images! LW, as well as Kelly Fineman, featured this book this week! Alice is everywhere! And, shall we make plans to VISIT Cooper Edens and his amazing collection sometime soon? 🙂 Holey Moley!

  4. I’m glad to see Alice everywhere this week, though I still feel itchy when I read about the new movie. My daughter has been clamoring for me to read the books to her, but they’re so heady that I wonder how much an almost-seven year old can appreciate.

  5. Thanks, you guys. Jama, I just added Kelly’s link. Thanks for the heads-up. Farida, I get itchy, too. And twitchy. I’m nervous about it.

  6. And I didn’t even MEAN to post seven images at the bottom. But I did. Huh. How inadvertently 7-Impy of me.

  7. And how could I fail to mention 7-Imp’s own Alice art: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?page_id=1845.

    Now I’m just talking to myself…

  8. I heard you, Jules.

    I did see the movie, incidentally. It wasn’t so bad, although it mostly made we want to reread the book. I *wanted* to reread the book before I saw the movie, but I ran out of time. Anyway, maybe I’ll have to pick up a few versions of it so as to appreciate all the different illustrations. We have a bunch of them here at the library.

  9. I really love the images, as I said before, but I do wish that it was part of a book about the history of Alice illustrations, with more info on all those illustrators and their points of view. That said, other folks I know and respect – you and LW and my friend Angela included – have loved the book as is!

  10. I see your point, Kelly. I think what you’re asking for would be an entirely different book, as you already pointed out in your post, but I agree that a book like that would seriously rock. And rawk, as the young’uns say.

  11. Oh and Adrienne, I trust your movie recommendations a whole, whole lot.

    I once started reading Alice to the girls, but we didn’t finish. Their interest waned. Hmm. I wonder if it’s better suited for a slightly older age, or if it was just them.

    A classmate of Piper’s told me today that she’s going to see the movie. She said she had read the book, and I got excited. Then she said she had a big book full of Disney tales, and I realized that is what she had read. Now, I KNOW I’ll sound like…I dunno…a snob saying this, but I don’t mean to: It rather broke my heart that she didn’t know anything about the Carroll tale. I wanted to pull her aside and stage an intervention.

  12. Jules: STAGE IT. STAGE IT.

  13. Little Willow, I just HEART you.

  14. I would be so happy if i could have one of these beautiful traditional illustrations up on my wall somewhere.

    It seems like we’re all doing Alice theme’s; i’ve included an alice week theme on my blog and it’s really gone down well.
    Another blog i discovered a few weeks back which will complement your posts is http://aliceintheinternet.wordpress.com

  15. I so identify with Alice, I looked like her as a kid ( the Arthur Rackham girl more than the others), even had the Madame Alexander Alice doll. I did a report on Lewis Carroll in 6th grade, how I loved his book, butI dont’ think I really ‘got’ it until I read it to my own kids not so long ago. My kids loved/love her just as much as I do. One of the true classics of childhood.

  16. I was always disturbed and confused by Alice as a kid – I loved the illustrations, but my poor little OCDish brain couldn’t form a plot out of the books and I got all frustrated.

    I think of that when I assess kids and books and try to line them up with each other – not every kid can take every book.

    And now, when I see that there IS a coherent plot in the Burton movie, it makes me not want to see it!

  17. Isn’t the illustration of the Caucus Race (attributed here to Peter Newell) actually a Jessie Wilcox Smith? I have a print of it — and that appears to be her signature in the lower left.
    Love, love, love your blog–stumbled across it about a year ago. Keep doing what you do!!

  18. Heidi, thanks! I think I did originally have it as Jessie Wilcox Smith, but then I changed it back after seeing a source online. I think my source was wrong. I’ll look into it…

  19. Heidi, you’re right! It’s all fixed now. Thanks!


  20. Hear, hear…good to be an Alice fan right now..and I enjoy it too: pics all over etc! The fixation isn’t bad as long as you know how to make your own choises; what to see and what not to see!

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