Alice Opens the Door | Exhibit Digest

November 26, 2019 | David

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Gallery interior with cases with books and on the wall is an Alice in Wonderland mural as well as a swinging red door

This post reproduces part of the exhibit, Alice Opens the Door. Below is the introductory wall panel from the exhibit (and a small sample of exhibit items).

The exhibit was displayed in the TD Gallery at the Toronto Reference Library from February 16 to April 28, 2019. Many of the showcased items came from our Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.



Alice Opens the Door

On a summer's day in 1862, Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (best known by his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll) and his friend Robinson Duckworth took Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell, aged eight, ten and thirteen, on a boating excursion up a stretch of the Thames River, "on which occasion," Carroll later noted in his diary, "I told them the fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Underground..."

At Alice's request Carroll undertook to write down the story. Two years later, in 1864, he presented her with a handwritten version of the tale. He also began work on a commercial edition, expanding the text and engaging the illustrator John Tenniel. The first edition was published in June 1865, but was recalled due to concerns over printing quality. A new edition appeared in November of the same year, gaining appreciative reviews from readers and critics—Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was on its way to becoming a beloved literary classic that has "opened the door" to reading for generations of children.




Two images  one of a board game with illustrations inset and another image of a girl in a red dress looking up to a cat on a tree
Left: [Alice's Adventure in Wonderland Game], New York: Noble & Noble (1923). Right: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, illustration by Blanche McManus. New York: A. Wessells Company, gift of Judith Dawson (1900).


Two images  one of a tea party with a girl and a rabbit and a man with a large hat and the other image is a card with the text Alice and the flamingo with an illustration of a girl holding a big flamingo
Left: The Nursery "Alice" [proof copy], illustrated by John Tenniel. London: Edmund Evans (1889). Right: Playing Card, illustrated by E. Gertrude Thomson after John Tenniel. Lindon: Thos. De la Rue & Co. (ca. 1900).


Large poster with torn corner and multiple scenes of illustrated characters and numbers
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Designed by Richard Bennett (1899-1971) based on the drawings of John Tenniel (1820-1914), [New York]: E.P. Dutton & Co. (1945). Read about the library's conservation of this item.