In recognition that 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, publishers have issued an abundance of illustrated editions of Wonderland as well as a number of scholarly and general interest books on Carroll himself. Of the many Alicerelated books that were published in conjunction with this anniversary, my favorite is The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. This may come as a surprise, since Martin Gardner’s influential Annotated Alice was first published in 1960, followed by two major revised editions: More Annotated Alice in 1990 and The Definitive Edition of The Annotated Alice in 1999. Gardner continued to add to his Alice annotations. He published a two-part “A Supplement to Annotated Alice” in the Knight Letter, the journal of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, in 2005 and 2006 and continued to update his annotations based on ongoing Carroll scholarship until his death in 2010. Mark Burstein, a past president of the LCSNA, has combined annotations from the previous editions of the Annotated Alice as well as those published in the Knight Letter and included a few of his own. The Deluxe Edition has more than one hundred new or updated annotations as well as an excellent bibliography of critical works and of Alice screen adaptations.
Since Wonderland is a text that skillfully combines words and images and that has attracted numerous illustrators, Burstein has added a hundred new illustrations in addition to John Tenniel’s iconic artwork. The volume includes a selection of Carroll’s Under Ground drawings, and an impressive array of Alice images by Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter, Peter Newell, Walt Kelly, Salvador Dalí, and Barry Moser. I found the set of Wonderland illustrations by Harry Furniss for The Children’s Encyclopedia of special interest. Furniss, the illustrator for Carroll’s two-volume Sylvie and Bruno (1889, 1893), originated the allegation that Carroll and Tenniel had a difficult working relationship. Furniss reported that Tenniel had told him that he would quickly find collaborating [End Page 217] with Carroll impossible. But Carroll’s reprinting of the first edition of Wonderland at his own expense after Tenniel’s disappointment with the quality of the illustrations, and his subsequent removal of the “Wasp in the Wig” episode from Through the Looking-Glass at Tenniel’s recommendation (reprinted in the Deluxe Edition), suggests that far from being “impossible,” Carroll was rather deferential to Tenniel. Furniss’s Wonderland illustrations hint at his disappointment with being given much less inspired material to illustrate and at his jealousy of the opportunity given to Tenniel.
Gardner astutely observes in his introduction to More Annotated Alice that “no other books written for children are more in need of explication than the Alice books” (Deluxe xxii). Over the years his annotations have guided modern readers through an increasingly unfamiliar Victorian world of references and allusions. Burstein quotes Edward Guiliano, who argued that Gardner deserves much credit for the popularity and acceptance of Carroll and the Alice books in literary studies. Gardner clearly notes in his introduction to the Annotated Alice that he has little interest in allegorical or psychoanalytic interpretations, leaving others to pursue them. The success of Gardner’s Annotated Alice also opened the door for many more annotated editions of children’s books, including The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Little Women, The Cat in the Hat, and The Phantom Tollbooth. I suspect that Gardner’s Annotated Alice is one of the first texts that introduced many readers to the pleasures and complexities of critical reading.
Just as Wonderland has always been a successful combination of Carroll’s prose and Tenniel’s illustrations, Adam Gopnik, in his appreciation of Gardner’s Annotated Alice published on the New Yorker Web site, has rightly called...