Posted on Aug 2 , 2015

The “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” I Never Knew

Having written about business tips I learned from reading “Alice in Wonderland” in March 2010 and having read “Alice..”, “Alice I Have Been”, background on Charles Dodgson aka his nom de plume: Lewis Carroll, viewing photos of Alice Liddell in the newspaper and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn’t think there was too much I didn’t know about Carroll’s release of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.  After visiting the Morgan Library exhibit, “Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland”, I realized I was wrong.  Here are some of the things I didn’t know, and maybe you didn’t know either.

  • Dodgson, a professor of Mathematics and Logic at Oxford loved clocks, watches, logic, word games and riddles and therefore Carroll’s book is rife with them. Some riddles in the book aren’t meant to make sense, but many are solvable.

  • Carroll kept a 13 volume diary for most of his life. His first mention of his telling of the Alice fable to the Liddell girls took place on July 4, 1862.

  • The three sisters names were: Lorina, Alice and Edith.  Alice was the middle child who was the main character in the book.  However, Lorina and Edith were also represented as the Lory and the Eaglet in “Mouse’s Tale” within the book.

  • Each time Carroll told the story to the three girls, it would expand. When he wrote it down, he expanded it to twice its original length for publication purposes.

  • The two Alice books did not end with a moral, which was unusual for children’s literature in the Victorian era and a breakthrough. The stories were meant to amuse and inspire not to be instructive.

  • The original title of the book was “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”. Carroll wound up using “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” because it sounded sensational to him and not like a lesson book.

  • For producing and distributing the book, Macmillan publishing received 10% of the profits. Carroll financed the book and Macmillan for publishing the book.  Because he financed the publishing expenses, he also was able to control the design of the book.

  • The first printing of the book was sold to a New York publisher in 1866 because it was not deemed to be up to British standards. Unauthorized versions quickly appeared in American publications (international authors were not protected by US copyright law).  Carroll thought the presentation of the unauthorized copies were so inferior to the original that it didn’t worry him.  

  • In the original manuscript, Carroll gave to Alice, he had drawn all the illustrations himself. However, unsatisfied with them, when considering publishing, he paid John Tenniel to reillustrate the book.


  • Tenniel’s Alice was indeed an “it” girl of the time. Tenniel made significant changes to her dress to reflect the changes in fashion.  By the 1880’s and 1890”s her dress became a structured, pleated skirt and a ruffled apron for the “The Nursery “Alice”.


  • The phrase to “grin like a Cheshire Cat” was from the previous century and meant to smile mischievously.

  • In the original story, Alice was seven years old. “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” took place six months later, after Alice awakens from the Wonderland dream, when Alice was seven and a half years old.

  • The Daiziel brothers engraved Tenniel’s illustrations for both books.