The Nursery Alice


Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and what Alice found there (1871) were two of the high-points of Victorian children’s literature. The story of their origin is almost as well known as the books themselves. Dodgson was fond of children and became friends with Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell, the young daughters of the Dean of his Oxford college, Christ Church. One summer's day in 1862 he entertained them on a boat trip with a story of Alice's adventures in a magical world entered through a rabbit-hole. The ten-year-old Alice was so entranced that she begged him to write it down for her. 

The book was an immediate critical and popular success. At Dodgson’s death, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had sold over 86,000 copies and Through the Looking Glass 61,000. Both have remained in print ever since, and have been translated into over 70 languages. 

This version of Alice in Wonderland, from 1890, was aimed at under-fives, reflecting the continued expansion of the children’s literature market. Although Dodgson sometimes claimed that he regretted the popularity of the books, and the celebrity that it bought him, he shortened and adapted Alice for this new version himself. 

Part of the success of the original was due to the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914). This version included 20 of those originals, coloured and enlarged. Though over 150 artists have illustrated the stories in various editions appearing since copyright expired in 1907, Tenniel’s remain the best-known.

Full title:
The Nursery Alice, containing twenty coloured enlargements from Tenniel's illustrations to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with text adapted to nursery readers by Lewis Carroll.
1890, London
Book / Children's book / Illustration / Image
Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel [illustrator]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Perceptions of childhood

Article by:
Kimberley Reynolds
Romanticism, Childhood and children's literature

In the mid-18th century, childhood began to be viewed in a positive light, as a state of freedom and innocence. Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how this new approach influenced 18th and 19th-century writers, some of whom wished they could preserve childhood indefinitely.

Time and place in Lewis Carroll’s dream-worlds

Article by:
Rebecca Hutcheon
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1832–1880

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks: ‘what is the use of a book … without pictures or conversation?’ Taking a close look at the illustrations, Rebecca Hutcheon explores how time and space are depicted in the dream-worlds of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.

Understanding Alice

Article by:
Kimberley Reynolds
Childhood and children's literature, The novel 1832–1880

Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how Lewis Carroll transformed logic, literary traditions and ideas about childhood into the superbly inventive and irreverent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...