On June 16, 2016, Christie’s in New York will auction off the most valuable edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Ludwig Dodgson, a mathematician) . The book’s current owner is Jon Lindseth, a private collector and Carroll scholar. Originally printed in 1865, this first edition, first issue (the book is referred to as the “1865 Alice”) is extremely rare — only 22 copies exist today. Christie’s estimates that the book will fetch up to $3 million. Indeed, the perfect unbirthday gift for a bibliophile.
Carroll came up with the story of Alice back in 1862, and over the years worked on the manuscript, developing it into a book. He collaborated with John Tenniel, a famous illustrator who worked on Punch magazine, to create 42 wood engraved illustrations for the book. Macmillan & Company printed 2,000 copies of the first edition in June 1865, and sent Carroll 50 advance copies. Naturally, Carroll sent an advance copy to Tenniel, but the illustrator was not happy with the first edition; he was “entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures.” Carroll withdrew all the copies of the first edition, including the advance copies.
Today, there are 22 known copies — 16 owned by institutional libraries and 6 owned by private collectors. Out of those 22, only ten are in good condition and still in the original red cloth as issued; the balance of the books have either been rebound or are heavily worn and not as valuable. Carroll had the book reprinted in 1866.
An even more valuable edition is the one that Carroll wrote and illustrated with his own hand and gave to Alice, Lorinna, and Edith Liddell on November 26, 1864. Titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the book features sepia colored ink writing and 37 pen and ink illustrations on cream stock. The book was sold by Alice Liddell in 1927 to pay death taxes after her husband died. Over the next twenty years, the book was sold several times, eventually finding a permanent home at the British Library, located in London, in 1948.
For further reading: The Real Alice in Wonderland: A Role Model for the Ages by C.M. Rubin (2010)