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The Original Alice in Wonderland

Updated on December 20, 2011

Alice's Adventures Underground

Tim Burton most recently took us back down the rabbit hole for a new adventure with Alice. But I want to take you back to the beginning - back beyond Alice in Wonderland, even, to the very original story that became the Alice in Wonderland we know and love today...

For before Alice in Wonderland, there was Alice's Adventures under Ground. Told to a small girl called Alice Liddell in 1862 by a man named Charles Dodgson, the tale spoke of a girl named Alice, who fell through a rabbit hole into a magical land. Dodgson spent the next two years painstakingly writing out the story by hand, complete with illustrations, and after having it bound in Morocco leather, he presented it to Alice as an early Christmas gift in November 1864.

Dodgson eventually became, of course, Lewis Carroll, and the little book eventually became the famous story that spawned endless books, films and re-tellings.

The original version of the story is quite different from the one we know today. How do we know this? Because after holding on to her special book for 60 years, Alice's treasure passed into private American collections, before ending up back home at the British Museum, finally becoming one of the British Library's most cherished items.

What's more, this priceless edition of the timeless Alice story is available for all to read. Published as a hardcover facsimile edition, Alice's Adventures Under Ground allow readers to spot the difference between that and its successor, Alice in Wonderland. Even better, The Folio Society, with kind permission from the British Library, have published a limited edition facsimile version, hand numbered to just 3,750, which not only reproduces the story in Lewis Carroll's handwriting but also includes his original 37 illustrations.

Read on to learn more about this wonderful piece of literary treasure...

A Christmas gift to a dear child, in memory of a summer's day

Alice Liddell
Alice Liddell

A Gift for Alice

On 4th July 1862, a small group were rowing down the Isis River in Oxford. While the Reverend Robinson Duckworth manned the oars, a little girl named Alice Liddell and her two sisters Lorina and Edith were being entertained by Christ Church mathematics tutor Charles Dodgson, who was regaling a tale of a girl named Alice, who falls down a rabbit hole into a magical land.

Dodgson spends the next two years writing out and illustrating his tale by hand, before having it bound in morocco leather and presenting it to Alice as a Christmas gift in November 1864, with the inscription "A Christmas gift to a dear child, in memory of a summer's day".

Dodgson later became known by the pen name of Lewis Carroll. Friends who read the book were so impressed they insisted it had to be published, and after the story was edited, expanded and given a new title, it was published with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Alice kept her Christmas gift for over 60 years, before it ended up in American private collections. In 1946, in recognition of British gallantry in the Second World War, it was presented to the British Museum and accepted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Folio Society Edition of Alice's Adventures under Ground

Limited Edition Copy

In 2009 The Folio Society released a very special edition of Alice's Adventures under Ground. Unlike the standard edition available, these books are actual reproductions of Lewis Carroll's handwritten tome, complete with his 37 original illustrations.

As a proud owner of one of the copies of the book, I have to say it is a delight to read. The book is bound in full goatskin leather and gold blocked on the front cover. The case is also a gorgeous piece of art, with a photo of Alice Liddell at its centre. Limited to just 3,750 copies, each book is hand numbered on a special limitation page.

The illustrations by Lewis Carroll himself are quite beautiful. Many are full page, depicting his heroine Alice and the many curious characters of Wonderland. My particular favourites are these two gorgeous pictures of Alice (above). The other thing that I love about the book is the way that some of the text and illustration will suddenly turn landscape instead of portrait (right), or text will suddenly squeeze into a shape on a page - curiouser and curiouser, just like in Wonderland...

Being the early version of Alice, before any editing took place, it not only is a shorter tale, but significantly different in places. For example, did you know that Alice originally played croquet with an ostrich, rather than a flamingo? There is no Duchess, either, but there is a Marchioness of Mock Turtles.

Captivating as its own story, the book is also fascinating as it shows the origin of the Alice in Wonderland we know and love. It is fun spotting the parts that are different from the final version! It is a wonderful treasure, to see the origin and development of such a famous and beloved story. The curator of modern manuscripts at the British Library, Sally Brown, describes the original as "One of the greatest treasures on display in the British Library's exhibition galleries."

Sally is the author of the accompanying booklet that comes housed inside the case along with the book. Entitled "The Original Alice", the 32-page volume looks at the development of the manuscript and Carroll's friendship with Alice, and includes 17 illustrations and photos, some by Carroll himself.

If you love Alice, I highly recommend this version of Alice's Adventures under Ground, because not only do you get a beautiful reproduction of the handwritten script in a gorgeous volume, you get Lewis Carroll's illustrations as well.

Where to Find Alice's Adventures Under Ground

The beautiful limited edition version of Alice's Adventures under Ground is available exclusively from the Folio Society and can be ordered from their website:

Folio Society Limited Edition Alice's Adventures Under Ground Facsimile


The Folio Society is a wonderful book club featuring a dazzling array of outstanding books, with fabulous bindings and contained in high quality slipcases. A book lover's paradise!

In order to purchase Folio books you need to become a member. The introductory packages are amazing, usually free books worth around 150 pounds or more. As a member you must purchase four full-priced titles in a year. You are not tied in after this and only re-subscribe if you want to, by ordering another 4 books. Every year there is a new subscription gift package worth around 150 pounds.

Alice's Adventures Under Ground:

A Facsimile

Alice's Adventures Under Ground: A Facsimile
Alice's Adventures Under Ground: A Facsimile

"Generations of readers have loved and embraced Lewis Carroll’s tale of the little girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures and absurd croquet matches, but how many can recount the history behind this famous story? It all began one golden July afternoon in Oxford in 1862, when the three Liddell siblings—Lorina, Edith, and young Alice—set out on a boating trip with two close friends of the family, Robinson Duckworth and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. To keep the children amused, Dodgson spun a tale about an inquisitive young girl and her escapades in a magical underground world, eventually writing it down at his heroine Alice Liddell’s request. The little book he produced, entitled Alice’s Adventures under Ground, was beautifully bound in morocco leather, illustrated with 37 charming pictures, and given to Alice as an early Christmas present in November of 1864. Friends and fellow novelists who saw the volume urged Dodgson to publish the book formally, and literary history was made in 1865 when the first of countless best-selling editions rolled off the press.

In this superb facsimile edition of Dodgson’s original manuscript, modern readers can at last enjoy the expressive script and vibrant illustrations of the original, one of the British Library’s most prized possessions. Perfect for the literary collector, the lover of Alice, or the child at heart, this remarkable volume includes fascinating biographical commentary on Dodgson as well as a recounting of all the stages through which the manuscript passed. This journey produced a new tale itself, as the manuscript was revised, expanded, and illustrated by Punch cartoonist John Tenniel en route to final publication as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, under Dodgson’s celebrated pen name of Lewis Carroll.

About the Author

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898), known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, philosopher, and writer."


Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland Trailer

From the earliest Alice to the newest... Have you been to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland yet? Here's the wonderful trailer!

I hope you enjoyed this lens! All feedback and comments greatly appreciated - thank you for reading!

Fall Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice!

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    • MerandaJade profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderland was always one of my favorite places.... along with Oz, Narnia, pern, Xanth and The World of Two Moons.

    • MyFairLadyah2 profile image


      6 years ago

      Long live imagination!

    • joannalynn lm profile image

      joannalynn lm 

      6 years ago

      I have loved Alice since I was a child. My Mom sent me the book you describe here, and I had no idea it had any value! She didn't either. I collect different Alice's Adventures and Through the Looking Glass, and well as books about Dodgson. I was given a book from two Cornell researchers regarding Dodgson's associations with his illustrators. Quite interesting. Thank you for your lens. I enjoyed it.

    • Philippians468 profile image


      7 years ago

      i love a lesson learnt from this movie: keep our imaginations alive! cheers

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent lens. I really have no desire to see the new movie because I think it must have destroyed the story. I much prefer the original, as do you. Several years ago we went to Lyndhurst in the New Forest, and Alice Liddell is buried in the churchyard. You can see the grave here

    • juliannegentile profile image

      Julianne Gentile 

      8 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, US

      Fantastic lens! I always loved this story as a child.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Can't say "Alice in Wonderland," is one of my favorites, too many thing to make out of it, but your lens is. Thank you

    • Missmerfaery444 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @HorseAndPony LM: Thank you so much for the angel blessing! I visited your angel page earlier today, it is beautiful! x

    • Missmerfaery444 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @poptastic: Thank you so much for blessing this lens! x

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      8 years ago

      I'm back for a visit. I loved reading about the original Alice in Wonderland. Blessed by The HorseAndPony Angel!

    • Missmerfaery444 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you everyone for your kind comments, I'm so glad you enjoyed the lens! The Folio Society do still have copies of this book available but I understand it is quite expensive and also not everyone might want to join the club. Many of their books end up on eBay though and while I haven't seen any copies on there yet, keep an eye out as you can sometimes pick up a bargain!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      Beautiful review and lens! We are all Alice fans and I would love to have that book. Awesome!!!

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing about the original story. Your book is beautiful. I would love to have a copy. Great lens!

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 

      8 years ago from Quezon City

      Oh wow, what an excellent and engaging book review - I had never heard of the original version either. Now I want a copy of that book for myself too! Thank you for sharing this edition with us and for presenting it so wonderfully *blessed by an angel*

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I have never heard of The Original Alice In Wonderland so thoroughly enjoyed this read. Great. Thank you.

    • vanidiana24 profile image


      8 years ago

      It's nice having someone write a story for you, isn't it?

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Very nicely done; lensrolled to my Alice in Wonderland movie review and my lens about Sir John Tenniel's original Alice artwork.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Love Alice's adventures and this original work sounds so fascinating. Now I wish I had a copy!

    • Kyecerulian profile image


      8 years ago

      Sounds like an incredible book! I love seeing the roots of where things have come from. Thanks for sharing this timely lens!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      8 years ago from UK

      What a beautiful edition of this much-loved classic. Enjoyed your presentation of this book.


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