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  • Lewis Carroll, Art DirectorRecovering the Design and Production Rationales for Victorian Editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Amanda Lastoria (bio)

Lewis Carroll created not only the Alice texts, but the Alice books.1 He was both author and art director. Carroll art directed the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ([1865] 1866), and he went on to segment the Victorian children's literature market by strategically repackaging the story in a further three distinct editions.

Design and production values include the cover design, typography, paper, binding and so on that constitute the look and feel of the book. These values are some—if not the only—unique selling points of books that are published in multiple editions.2 Alice is a 154-year-old material girl; she is dressed in countless guises, from interactive board books for toddlers to paperback graphic novels for teens to hardback novels for adults. Abridgements and adaptations have contributed to Alice's diverse audience, but the most powerful changes are due to the title's material re-representations, or art directions. Alice has evolved from Macmillan's golden Victorian blocked on cloth to Harper's inky goth girl printed on satin paper.3 Carroll conceived the title as a fairy tale, but some latter-day publications are better described as scary tales. This transformation is due, in part, to illustrations. Alice is possibly "the most widely illustrated novel in existence".4 The extraordinary variety of Alice illustrations is surpassed only by the breadth of editions in which they are published; John Tenniel's illustrations from the first publication, for example, have been republished in hundreds of editions, from mass-market paperbacks to collectible hardbacks. Accordingly, Alice is today located in such diverse publishing retail categories as "Children's Fairy & Folk Tales," "Science Fiction & Fantasy" and "Classic Literature."5 Carroll was the first to segment and sell Alice, trading on unique art directions. How did the early Alices—those published under Carroll's direction—differentiate themselves from each other? [End Page 196]

This article recovers the rationales for the design and production choices that Carroll made, as art director, for the single-volume English-language Alice editions that Macmillan published in London between 1865 (year of first publication) and 1897 (year prior to Carroll's death in January 1898):

  • • the red-cloth Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (AAIW) ([1865] 1866) (Figures 1a, 1b and 1c);

  • Alice's Adventures Under Ground (AAUG) (1886) (Figures 2a and 2b);

  • • the People's Edition of AAIW (1887) (Figures 3a and 3b) and the People's Edition omnibus that combines AAIW with its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, in one volume (1888);

  • The Nursery "Alice" (1890) (Figures 4a and 4b).

The story remains essentially unchanged across these four editions: the first and third editions have the same body text6; the second edition is a facsimile of a draft of the AAIW manuscript; the fourth edition is a retelling of the text of the first and third editions. The similarity of these books' editorial content throws into relief their varied design and production values. The sequel to AAIW, Through the Looking-Glass (TTLG), is only peripherally included in this article—when discussing its publication in an omnibus volume with AAIW. Although TTLG is often conflated with AAIW in scholarship and popular imagination, and Carroll art directed them both, each title tells a unique story and has its own publishing history. It is AAIW that started Carroll's "career" as an art director, and it is AAIW that Carroll repackaged in many editions for many audiences. This article interrogates the ways in which Carroll's art direction contributed to his creative vision and strategic publication of a single title: Alice.

"Art director" is an anachronistic title for a Victorian—it came into use in the early 1900s and continues to be used today7—but it frames a critical understanding of the lead that Carroll took in the visual and material realizations of his texts. There is a wealth of published research on Carroll and his books, but the overwhelming majority focuses on his biography and/or Alice's text.8 This article expands the horizons of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1499
Print ISSN
1098-7371
Pages
pp. 196-225
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-23
Open Access
No
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