This Alice in Wonderland Copy Is a Collector's Dream

It will be sold at auction next month
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2016 12:22 PM CDT
This Alice in Wonderland Copy Is a Collector's Dream
An illustrated original manuscript for Lewis Carroll’s "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

"One of the great rarities of 19th century literature" is about to hit the auction block. A first edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland will be sold by Christie's on June 16—almost exactly 151 years after it was first printed. The book's existence is actually quite remarkable: As Fine Books Magazine explains, 2,000 copies were printed in 1865, but illustrator John Tenniel was so unhappy with the printing of the pictures that he ordered every copy be returned and a fresh copy printed. The returned copies were to be "sold as waste paper," Carroll wrote in his diary. Yet 23 known copies survive—18 of which are kept in public institutions, according to Christie's. The available copy is expected to fetch $2 million to $3 million, "making it presumably the most expensive waste paper that ever existed," per Quartz.

A Carroll scholar says the edition is "so choice" that "collectors would trade whole segments of their libraries for a single copy of the 'first' Alice; bibliographers dream of uncovering an unrecorded copy; and literary chroniclers are at a loss to explain how, even in the heyday of Victorian publishing, such extravagant decisions could be made over a single children's book as were made over this one," per the Guardian. Carroll, who lost the equivalent of $62,000 on the first edition, personally gave the copy to a colleague at Oxford University—where he worked as a mathematician—who gave it to his daughter. It changed hands several times after her death in 1925 before making its way to its current owner, but it remains "in its true original state, with the text and binding as they were when the book was first produced," Christie's says. (An unpublished story of Peter Rabbit just emerged.)

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