DODGSON, Charles Lutwidge (‘Lewis Carroll’) (1832-1898) and TENNIEL, John (1820-1914)

DODGSON, Charles Lutwidge (‘Lewis Carroll’) (1832-1898) and TENNIEL, John (1820-1914)
A collection of original shots for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London: R. Clay, Son, and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1865), and for the first edition of Through the looking glass, and what Alice found there (London: R. Clay, Son and Taylor for Macmillan and Co., 1871).
A collection of original printing plates for Tenniel’s famous illustrations at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, used in the production of the first editions. John Tenniel’s drawings to illustrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were transferred to woodblock blocks by the famous London engraving company Dalziel Brothers, and electrotype blocks were prepared from these woodblocks for printers. The first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was printed by The Clarendon Press for Macmillan in 1865 using these blocks. However, when Tenniel saw the first copies, he was not happy with the reproduction of his illustrations and persuaded Dodgson to recall all copies that had been printed (RL Green, ed., Newspapers. London, 1953, p.234). Only about 20 copies of this first edition survive; it is one of the rarest and most valuable books in English literature. R. Clay, Son, and Taylor were chosen to print a new edition (which was to be the second edition first published), and on August 11, 1865, Dodgson received Clay’s first proof. Macmillan probably suggested Clay because they were “expert in [the electrotype block] medium ‘(J. Moran, Bungay clays. Bungay, Suffolk: 1984, p.91), and could be trusted to print the illustrations to Tenniel’s exacting standards. The completed book was published later that year, and on November 9, 1865, Dodgson described the completed book as follows: “Received from Macmillan a copy of Alice’s new print – far superior to the old one, and in makes a perfect piece of artistic impression ‘(RL Green, ed., op. cited., p.236). It is possible that the current set of electrotype blocks were used for the first printing of the book in June 1865 by The Clarendon Press, then transferred to Clay for use in the first published edition (with text in letterpress and illustrations by ‘electrotype). It is certainly unlikely that they were used for the sixth edition of October 1868 (or later editions), which were printed from electrotypic plates of the text and illustrations. In 1876 Clay purchased Charles Child of Bungay’s printing press to supplement the capacity of their London presses at Bread Street Hill, and the current electrotypic blocks were taken there at some point after that date (cf. Moran op. cit. p.76). The sets of these blocks sold on the market are rare, even if Clays had duplicates in order to allow large series of production; the set of 49 blocks sold at Christie’s New York on December 4, 2018, lot 88, contained 5 in duplicate. See Williams-Madan-Green-Crutch 42, 46 and 84.

Set of 12 copper-plated lead shots mounted on wood [11 for Adventures, and one for Looking Glass] electrotyped from wooden blocks after John Tenniel and cut by Dalziel Brothers. Origin: R. Clay, Son and Taylor (printers, presented to 🙂 – Mark Arman (1914-2007, founder of the Workshop Press, Thaxted, Essex, who used the blocks in his publication The history of the electrotypes used to illustrate Sir John Tenniel’s designs for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass (Thaxted, 1996) and in large format newspapers, with one of these, In the rabbit hole, included in the lot; sold to 🙂 – the current owner.


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