Lewis Carroll was so impressed by John Tenniel’s animated illustrations for this edition of Æsop’s Fables, published in 1848, that he chose the artist to illustrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Shown here is a selection of those illustrations, which feature many of the animals Tenniel would go on to draw for Alice – the hare, the rabbit, the lion and the mouse.
Æsop’s Fables use anthropomorphism to explore ethical quandaries and different aspects of human nature. The animals depicted speak to each other and experience human emotions, and their behaviours often show them using their wit to triumph against adversity. Anthropomorphism is central to Carroll’s novel, although in Alice the animals live in a nonsensical and perhaps amoral world.
Tenniel achieved the accuracy found in these illustrations by spending hours at the zoo observing live animals, and drew on his photographic memory. Each print was created by drawing the design onto a woodblock which was then cut by an engraver, ready to print.