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See How Lewis Carroll’s Alice Evolved Through the Decades

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It was precisely 150 years ago this week—on July 4, 1865—that the world first met a very special girl, who in the decades since has taught countless readers (and movie- and theatergoers) about the importance of believing in the impossible.

lewis carroll
Photograph of Lewis Carroll, 1863.Oscar Gustav Rejlander—The Morgan Library & Museum

Charles Dodgson, better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, had taken a boat trip exactly three years earlier, on July 4, 1862, with a group that included a girl named Alice Liddell. Liddell was a daughter of the Dean of Christ Church at Oxford, where Dodgson was studying mathematics. (Some people have questioned the nature of Carroll’s relationship with Alice, although there appears to be little firm evidence that it was not benign.) As the Lewis Carroll Society tells it, it was on that outing that he began to tell the story of another Alice, who found her way to a magical place underground. The character’s real-life inspiration loved the story and asked him to write it down for her, which he did.

That story became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in a very limited run by Macmillan on July 4, 1865, with illustrations by John Tenniel. A few weeks later, Tenniel announced that he didn’t like the quality of the first printing and asked to have the edition withdrawn. The book didn’t become more widely available until that holiday season, but according to the University of Florida libraries—which hold a collection of editions of the work—it was from the July 4 printing that Alice Liddell was given her very own copy of the book she helped bring into the world. July 4 is celebrated throughout Oxford as Alice’s Day.

Many other museums, libraries and groups will also celebrate Alice‘s birthday this week; one of the Tenniel illustrations in the gallery above, for example, can be seen at the new exhibit Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland, on view now through Oct. 11 at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

In the 150 years since John Tenniel’s illustrations first helped the world imagine Alice, depictions of the character have evolved—but she has never lost her sense of wonder.

Writers on Their Favorite Young Adult Books

Laura Hillenbrand,  whose latest book "Unbroken" has just come out, in her home in Washington, DC.
Laura Hillenbrand, Author of Unbroken. "Come on Seabiscuitby Ralph Moody. When I was eight years old, I bought this battered paperback for a quarter at a neighborhood fair. Enthralled, I read it over and over, until the cover fell off and the pages parted from the spine. I had to hold the book together with a rubber band. The story stayed with me, and many years later, it would inspire me to become an author myself."Bill O'Leary—The Washington Post/Getty Images
Author James Patterson
James Patterson, Author of Along Came a Spider. "As a kid, Peter Pan was one of a few books that I truly enjoyed. It’s got pirates, fairies, mermaids—what’s not to like? When I was starting to write Maximum Ride, my first series for kids, I had Mr. Barrie’s story in the back of my mind."Brian Harkin—MCT/Getty Images
Author Michael Lewis poses for a portrait while promoting his book about high-frequency trading (HFT) named "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt," in New York
Michael Lewis, Author of Flash Boys. “As a kid I lived on a steady diet of The Hardy Boysand Archie comic books, without the slightest sense there was anything better I might be doing with my time.”Lucas Jackson—Reuters/Corbis
Jesmyn Ward Portrait Session
Jesmyn Ward, Author of Men We Reaped. "When I was around eight or so, I discovered The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley at my local book fair. I charmed one of my cousins into buying it for me, and then I devoured it. The heroine is an illegitimate princess who hunts dragons in an attempt to find some place for herself in her father's kingdom; I loved the book because the heroine is tough, stubborn, and smart, and she takes on a world bent on making her less than she is. I empathized."Ulf Andersen—Getty Images
National Book Awards
Dave Eggers, Author of A Hologram for the King. "Barbara McClintock's Adèle & Simon books are, I think, contemporary classics. McClintock's artwork is ridiculously beautiful and because readers are asked to find objects that Simon has lost during various trips—including turn-of-the-century Paris and the USA—the books reward very close attention."Tina Fineberg—AP
Curtis Sittenfeld, Author of Sisterland. “I've always loved the George and Martha books by James Marshall. These tales of two hippo BFFs are wonderfully irreverent and full of both misbehavior and compassion.”Haraz Ghanbari—AP
Jennifer Weiner
Jennifer Weiner, Author of All Fall Down. "One of the joys of motherhood is getting to re-discover the books I loved as a girl by handing them to—and occasionally forcing them upon—my daughters. Recently, my seven-year-old and I have worked our way through the Little House on the Prairie books. Re-reading them was like curling up in a beloved, cozy blanket. A blanket that made us both hungry. As a girl, I loved the stories of adventure—surviving sickness, blizzards, poor crops and snotty Nellie Olson. As a grown-up, I was surprised at how much of the prose is devoted to the finding, gathering, slaughtering, preparing, and eventual devouring of mass quantities of food. The books remain touching and transporting—if you can get past a desire for maple-syrup candy, cracklings, codfish gravy and cornmeal mush."Chris Pizzello—AP
USA - 2013 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Ann Brashares, author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. "The Great Brain, by John D. Fitzgerald. Set in a tiny town in Utah in the late 1890's, The Great Brain series recounts the mischief and miracles wrought by Tom Fitzgerald through the eyes of his ordinary-brained younger brother John. You idolize Tom's brilliance—his schemes make him more powerful and exciting than anybody else—but you can't escape his selfishness or his greed. I think as a kid I appreciated liberation from the regular moral categories."Katy Winn—Corbis
John Irving;
John Irving, Author of The Cider House Rules. "The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey. Edward Gorey is the rare writer-artist whose work has a lasting effect on children and adults."Aaron Vincent Elkaim—AP
Matthew Quick
Matthew Quick, Author of The Silver Linings Playbook. “Although I can't recall the title of a single edition, I remember reading and loving many Choose Your Own Adventure novels when I was a kid. The series made you the protagonist and every so many pages you would come to a question. There were options listed and corresponding page numbers. I remember reading each path regardless of my choice, thumbing furiously forward and backward through the maze-like stories. In retrospect, I realize this active-reading process was perhaps my first lesson on story structure.”Richard Vogel—AP
Adelle Waldman Portrait Session
Adelle Waldman, Author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. “As a teenager, my favorite author, hands down, was Norma Klein, whom I would describe as Judy Blume for a slightly older set—or Woody Allen for a younger set. Klein wrote wry, psychologically acute novels about the romantic lives of smart New York teenagers. With intelligence and humanity, Klein describes crushes, relationships, sex, breakups and complicated friendships. Equally intriguing to me was the milieu. As someone growing up in the suburbs—who had little to do for fun but go to the mall or the multiplex—the New York Klein described was a revelation: kids took the subway to museums, walked around the Village and saw old movies at art house theaters. I live in New York today, in large part because Norma Klein’s books. She was very prolific until her death in 1989, but for a good taste of her work, try Domestic Arrangements, about a precocious 14-year-old with an eccentric, intellectual family and a steamy love life.”Ulf Andersen—Getty Images
Andy Cohen
Andy Cohen, Author of The Andy Cohen Diaries. “I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. They were about as butch as I got as a young boy (not that they were even in the same league as The Hardy Boys, which I stayed away from). Simple to understand and there was always a shot you could figure out the mystery on your own.”Charles Sykes—AP
Gillian Fllynn
Gillian Flynn, Author of Gone Girl. “The Westing Game completely charmed me as a kid: the clever mystery, the complex characters (especially the grownups—who knew they had lives too?) and the nasty, fantastic Tabitha Ruth Wexler. I still read it once a year.”M. Spencer Green—AP
Jerry Spinelli, Author of Maniac Magee. "When I was 12 I thought breaking a tackle in sandlot football was the hardest thing a person could do. And then I read Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. It instantly inflated both my worlds. My planet now stretched from the West End of Norristown, PA, to the vast reaches of the Pacific. And the other world—the world of my dreams, my future—swelled to the stars. I remember that I closed the book with a sense of both ending and beginning. He had arrived, he had done it. And I—as if his feat had given me permission—I could launch a voyage of my own. I knew not yet the vessel or the seas, but whatever the destination, I knew I could get there."Courtesy of Penguin Random House
Simon Doonan And NEXXUS Create Window Display At Duane Reade In Tribute To The 2013 Tony Awards
Simon Doonan, Author of The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion. “The most mind-expanding tome is still Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Like Led Zeppelin or Jimi or Bowie, Alice should be a right of passage for every kid. The trippy narrative, interwoven with the creepy John Tenniel illustrations, is a cosmic blast of creativity which can unlock the imagination of even the most conventional kid.”Jemal Countess—Getty Images
Dick Cavett
Dick Cavett, Author of Brief Encounters. "I’m told I began reading at age three. I soon fell deeply in love with Rufus M. (1943) by Eleanor Estes—a children’s author and children’s librarian. I’ve assumed it, and she, were long gone. It pains me to learn that she lived well into my later life and that I could have met her and expressed my delight. Damn. Among many laugh-out-loud escapades, small boy Rufus plants beans in his garden to contribute to his not-wealthy family’s dinner table. Sadly, in his intrepid enthusiasm, he couldn’t resist going out at night and digging them up to see how they were doing. The book, still in print, is wonderful. It’s for kids, but certainly not only so. Get it."Richard Shotwell—Invision/AP
Martin Amis at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014
Martin Amis, Author of The Zone of Interest. "I must have read Goodnight Moon to my children several thousand times, and I was never bored by it. The book has its own soporific poetry—and it quite often worked."Pako Mera—AP
Alice Liddell (1852 - 1934), the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's fictional character Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland'. She is posing as 'The Beggar-Maid.' 1858.
Alice Liddell (1852 - 1934), the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's fictional character Alice, posing in 1858.Lewis Carroll—Getty Images
alice in wonderland
The original manuscript titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Sept. 13, 1864.The British Library Board
Alice drawn by Lewis Carroll c.1862.
Alice drawn c.1862., as seen in the original manuscript of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland showing Alice curled up as she grew and grew. His drawings, including this one, were closely copied by Sir John Tenniel for his illustrations to the first edition of 'Alice in Wonderland.'Mary Evans/© Illustrated London News Ltd/Everett Collection
alice and wonderland
Illustration by John Tenniel, 1885.Steven H. Crossot—The Morgan Library & Museum
Cheshire Cat
Cheshire Cat, from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, with Illustrations by John Tenniel.Derek Bayes/Lebrecht Music & Arts—Corbis
The dodo presenting Alice with a thimble, in an illustration by Tenniel from the 1st edition of 'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll, 1865.
The dodo presenting Alice with a thimble, in an illustration by Tenniel from the first edition of Alice in Wonderland. Hulton Archive—Getty Images
Sidney Ord Jam Sandwich Biscuit, 1890s.
An ad for Sidney Ord Jam Sandwich Biscuits from the 1890s, with a depiction of Alice.History of Advertising Trust—Heritage Images/Getty Images
John Tenniel 's letter to Lewis Carroll
John Tenniel's letter to Lewis Carroll on June 1, 1870, with description of his illustration ideas for Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. Culture Club—Getty Images
Through the Looking Glass: Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Illustration of Tweedledum and Tweedledee by Sir John Tenniel, circa 1900, from Through the Looking Glass.Buyenlarge—Getty Images
Alice Barth as the Duchess in a production of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland at the Vaudeville Theatre, circa 1900, London, England.
Alice Barth as the Duchess in a production of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland at the Vaudeville Theatre in London, circa 1900.Hulton-Deutsch Collection—Corbis
circa 1910: The Mad Hatter's tea party, a scene from a London theatre production of 'Alice In Wonderland'.
The Mad Hatter's tea party, a scene from a London theatre production of Alice In Wonderland, circa 1910.Hulton Archive—Getty Images
Alice in Wonderland, Viola Savoy, 1915.
Alice in Wonderland, with Alice played by Viola Savoy in 1915.Courtesy Everett Collection
Twinkle, Twinkle, said the Hatter', 1930. Artist: John Tenniel
The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, after an illustration by John Tenniel, color printed by Edward Evans, from the Alice in Wonderland series of cigarette cards produced by Carreras Limited, 1930.The Print Collector—Getty Images
Scene from the movie, "Alice in Wonderland", written by Lewis Carroll. Alice (Charlotte Henry) is shown seated between the two chess pieces in a chair with "Queen Alice" written on it, 1933.
A scene from the 1933 movie, Alice in Wonderland. Alice is played by Charlotte Henry.Corbis
Sheet Music For 'Alice In Wonderland'
Cover of the sheet music for Alice in Wonderland, by Tobias, Scholl & Mencher, showing Alice sitting in a chair as the Mad Hatter exhorts a rabbit, 1933.Buyenlarge—Getty Images
Bambi Linn as Alice in Alice in Wonderland
Actress Bambi Linn as Alice in Alice in Wonderland, 1947.Eileen Darby—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
A scene from the Walt Disney film Alice in Wonderland with March Hare, Alice and the Mad Hatter, 1951.
A scene from the Walt Disney film Alice in Wonderland, 1951.Walt Disney Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

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