“Tenniel’s “Alice” reigns supreme!” or does it in your books?

Alice: “Who are these funny little people?”
Hatter: “Your Majesty, they are our imitators!”
Alice: “Curiouser and curiouser!”

E.T. Reed

“Tenniel’s “Alice” reigns Supreme” is a 1907 leaflet published by Macmillan (the original publisher of “Alice”) after the copyright for it expired in England.

The leaflet was Macmillan’s attempted defence against the proliferation of Alice illustrations that began flooding the market at that time.

E.T. Reeds cartoon with the same title (see photo below) first appeared in Punch magazine and later reproduced in Macmillan eponymous leaflet. The cartoon includes 4 of the 8 new “Alices” that have appeared in just 3 months from October to Decemebr 1907, these 4 being by Millicent Sowerby, Arthur Rackham, Charles Robinson and W H Walker. You’d see them with ‘Alice’ halos over their heads in the 2nd image in this post.

"Tenniel's "Alice" reigns supreme!" or does it in your books? Thinking Out Loud tenniels alice reigns supreme 02

Reed’s portrayals of non-Tenniel Alices are quite unflattering. But did that deter these new publishers in any way? Not one bit. 30 new editions appeared in England by the end of 1908, with 16 new illustrators engaged in those new productions. Many more followed at an unprecedented rate.

That desire to illustrate “Alice” has never abated and remains constant to this day. Wonderland continues to be a constant source of inspiration and fertile ground for the imaginings of talented illustrators the world over. Hundreds of artists have tried their hand at it, with thousands of editions printed worldwide. It’s certainly a global phenomenon with no sign of slowing down. Japan alone counts over 100 artists to date who have illustrated Alice, stylistically categorised into pre-WWII “Alice” and post-WWII “Alice”, with the latter broken down into new modern Western “Alice”, “Alice” inspired by Disney, post-Disney “Alice”, nymphet “Alice” and fresh “Alice” visions interpreted from a Japanese female artists’ point of view.

One could study art and pop culture history of a particular time and location by reference to what kind of “Alice” a certain geography and culture have produced.

My latest acquisitions include Alice by a Japanese and a Korean artist. I can’t wait for the postman to drop these at my doorstep.

Does Tenniel Alice reign supreme on your bookshelves? Who is your favourite “Alice” illustrator?

Click here to see reviews of books from my collection of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

Click here to see reviews of books from my collection of “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There”.

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