150 years of Alice in Wonderland

Festival feature by Nick Raikes

September 2015

The Chiswick Book Festival celebrated 150 years since the publication of Alice in Wonderland in 2015, with an Alice Extravaganza for children.

Nick Raikes discovered that one of Chiswick’s residents had played a key role in rediscovering the long lost artwork for the Lewis Carroll book, that had been lost for many years.

Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) commissioned Sir John Tenniel to do the illustrations and paid for the first print run himself, so he was concerned to know what the publisher Macmillan had done with the original wooden blocks from which the illustrations were printed. He wrote to them asking them about it.

For decades the whereabouts of the wooden blocks was unknown, until they turned up in a bank vault in 1985. Chiswick resident Michael Wace was head of Children’s Books at Macmillan at the time of the discovery. Nick Raikes talked to him about it and asked him why he thought Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were still so popular.