Book Review - Alice Illustrated

Alice Illustrated edited by Jeff. A. Menges.
ISBN 978-0-486-48204-0
Dover Publications 2012

This is a well thought out book showing plates by sixteen different illustrators of the ‘Alice’ books by Lewis Carroll.
The plates are arranged in chronological order from Tenniel’s work in 1865 and 1872 through to the early twentieth century when a flurry of illustrators produced new ideas after ‘Alice’ entered the public domain in 1907.
There is a short biographical piece about each illustrator followed by the plates. Each illustrators dates are given and also given are the dates of the ‘Alice’ work which I found extremely useful to know.
Tenniel, as the original illustrator, stands out above the others as he co-operated with Lewis Carroll and produced, albeit under difficult circumstances at times, what the author required. The other illustrators were able to interpret the books in their own ways and use their own styles.
Rackham’s coloured plates gave us a new view of ‘Alice’ that can appear to be quite unreal and mystical whereas in the same year W.H.Walker made his illustrations bright and colourful which appeals to young children. Portraying ‘Alice’ as a modern young lady often fails to work when seen against the traditional interpretation as commissioned by Lewis Carroll.
Gwynned Hudson’s plates in 1922 are actual paintings and work well. ‘Alice’ was the last of the only three books that she illustrated and her resulting illustrations are fresh and timeless.
The final offering by Barry Moon in 1983 returned to the black and white format. But failed to capture the essence of ‘Alice’ as it felt too deep and dark.
Mark Burstein’s introduction was succinct but his comment that Lewis Carroll’s real life was dull does not quite ring true.
This is an interesting book for Carrollians and, as is often the case with books on Lewis Carroll, it will probably lead to much discussion!

Elizabeth Wright