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Lewis Carroll – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 – 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems “Jabberwocky” and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor, and Anglican deacon.

Lewis Carroll came from a family of high-church Anglicans, and developed a long relationship with Christ Church, Oxford, where he lived for most of his life as a scholar and teacher. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry Liddell, is widely identified as the original for Alice in Wonderland, though Carroll always denied this. Scholars are divided about whether his relationship with children included an erotic component.

In 1856, Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson’s life over the following years, and would greatly influence his writing career. Dodgson became close friends with Liddell’s wife Lorina and their children, particularly the three sisters Lorina, Edith, and Alice Liddell. He was widely assumed for many years to have derived his own “Alice” from Alice Liddell; the acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking-Glass spells out her name in full, and there are also many superficial references to her hidden in the text of both books. It has been noted that Dodgson himself repeatedly denied in later life that his “little heroine” was based on any real child, and he frequently dedicated his works to girls of his acquaintance, adding their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text. Gertrude Chataway’s name appears in this form at the beginning of The Hunting of the Snark, and it is not suggested that this means that any of the characters in the narrative are based on her.

Before this, the family of friend and mentor George MacDonald read Dodgson’s incomplete manuscript, and the enthusiasm of the MacDonald children encouraged Dodgson to seek publication. In 1863, he had taken the unfinished manuscript to Macmillan the publisher, who liked it immediately. The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently thought that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist.

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson’s life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego “Lewis Carroll” soon spread around the world. Late in 1871, he published the sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. (The title page of the first edition erroneously gives “1872” as the date of publication.) Its somewhat darker mood possibly reflects changes in Dodgson’s life. His father’s death in 1868 plunged him into a depression that lasted some years.

Dodgson’s existence remained little changed over the last twenty years of his life, despite his growing wealth and fame. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881 and remained in residence there until his death. Public appearances included attending the West End musical Alice in Wonderland (the first major live production of his Alice books) at the Prince of Wales Theatre on 30 December 1886. The two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, were published in 1889 and 1893, but the intricacy of this work was apparently not appreciated by contemporary readers; it achieved nothing like the success of the Alice books, with disappointing reviews and sales of only 13,000 copies.

Charles Dodgson died of pneumonia following influenza on 14 January 1898 at his sisters’ home, “The Chestnuts”, in Guildford in the county of Surrey, just four days before the death of Henry Liddell.

Lewis Carroll – First Editions Identification Guide

This list does not include Carroll’s various mathematical works and other minor works. For a more throughout list and details, please refer to reference section.

How to Identify First Edition books by Lewis Carroll
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1860A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic GeometryOxford: Printed by James Wright, MDCCCLXFirst edition. Black cloth, white paper label on the back. White end papers.
1865Alice's Adventures in WonderlandLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1865First edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering. The first print run of 2000 copies was held back because John Tenniel objected to the printing quality. These sheets was sold to the New York publishing house of D. Appleton & Co. for the American edition. Extremely rare as most are recalled.
ALSO: New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1866. First American edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering. This issue used the English's First edition cancelled sheets with a new tipped-in title page dated 1866.
ALSO: London: Macmillan & Co., 1866. Second English (First published) edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering. 2000-4000 copies printed.
ALSO: London: Macmillan & Co.: (A) 3rd edition, 1867 (5th-7th thousand) (B) 4th edition, 1867 (8th-9th thousand) (C) 5th edition, 1868 (10th-11th thousand) (D) 6th edition, 1868 (commencing with 12th thousand). This was the first electrotype edition, published October 1868, and was the basis of all impressions until the work was reset as the ninth edition. (E) 7th edition, 1886 (commencing with 79th thousand) (F) 8th edition, 1891 (commencing with 84th thousand) (G) 9th edition, 1897 (commencing with 86th thousand). This eighty-sixth thousand published in 1897 represents Dodgson’s finally revised edition of the book.
1869Phantasmagoria and Other PoemsLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1869
  • First edition. Blue cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Three issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) p. 87 on the Table of Contents is misnumbered ‘p. 78’
  • (B) Same as First issue, except for the title page, which is a cancel leaf with the addition of 'Author of Alice in Wonderland'; p. 94 misnumbered 'p. 49'.
  • (C) Same as 2nd issue, but p. 203 instead of being blank, has the words turn over printed in the bottom right-hand corner, and p. [204], also originally blank, has now Macmillan’s advertisement of ‘Works by Lewis Carroll’.
1869Alice’s AbenteuerLondon: Macmillan und Comp., 1869First German edition. Green cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Two issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) "Uebersetzt von Antonie Zimmermann" as translator and Macmillan imprint on the title page; last leaf blank
  • (B) "Aus dem Englischen von Antonie Zimmermann" and Leipzig Johann Friedrich Hartknoch imprint. Lacks last blank leaf.
1869Adventures d'Alice Au Pays des MerveillesLondres: Macmillan and Co., 1869First French edition. Blue cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt.
1871Through the Looking-GlassLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1872First edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Dark green end-papers. The book was issued in an edition of 9,000 copies, in Dec. 1871, but no copies have 1871 on the title-page In addition to the unnumbered pages at the beginning of each chapter, p. 98 in the middle of Chap. V is accidentally unnumbered in many copies of the first edition, and p. 95 in some copies.
ALSO: London: Macmillan & Co. :
  • (A) 2nd edition, 1878 (commencing with 45th thousand). This and the third edition use the electrotypes of the first edition; this has a reset chess diagram, replacing the Kings missing from the board since the 25th thousand.
  • (B) 3rd edition, 1887 (commencing with 57th thousand). The last printing of this edition, the 60th thousand, was withdrawn from circulation by the author because of the inferior quality of the reproduction of the illustrations.
  • (C) 4th edition, 1897 (commencing with 61th thousand). Entirely revised and reset, with a new Preface dated Christmas 1896 expanded from that in the People's Edition and with the addition of Christmas Greetings.
ALSO: Boston: Lee & Sheppard, 1872. First American edition. No advertisements at the end. It appears to be a reissue of the original sheets printed in London, for it bears Macmillan’s device, and has the misprint ‘Wade’ for ‘Wabe’.
1872Avventure d’AliceLondra: Macmillan and Co.:,1872First Italian edition. Orange cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. There is another form of the first issue of the first edition of the Italian Alice. It differs from the other in that it is invariably found in mint condition, the covers lack the gold lines around the border, and only the top edges are gilt. The binding is a smooth red cloth.
ALSO: Torino: Ermanno Loescher: 1872. First Italian edition, second issue. Orange cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Dark blue end-papers.
1876The Hunting of the SnarkLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1877First edition. Variant bindings, pictorial buff-coloured or red cloth(uncommon). Black lettering.
1883Rhyme? And Reason?London: Macmillan & Co., 1883First edition. Olive-green cloth, gilt lettering, all edges yellow. Dark green end-papers.
ALSO: London: Macmillan & Co., 1887. Second edition (Fourth thousand). Red cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt.
1885A Tangled TaleLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1885First edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering, alld edges cut and gilt.
ALSO: 2nd impression, 1885 (second thousand); 3rd impression, 1885 (third thousand); fourth impression, 1886 (fourth thousand).
1886The Game of LogicLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1886First edition. Two issues, priority as listed:
  • (A) Private edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering. (At last 50 copies were printed).
  • (B) London: Macmillan & Co., 1887. Second (First published) edition after the private edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering. Accompanying the book there should be an envelope containing a card-diagram and nine counters, four red and five grey.
1886Alice’s Adventures Under GroundLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1886First facsimile of the manuscript edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. 5000 copies printed.
1887Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1887People's Edition. Pictorial olive-green cloth, black lettering. This edition was entirely revised and reset; many of the changes in punctuation were adopted in the reset version of the Ordinary Edition (1897). Issued in December 1887. It has been many times reprinted and is today the form regarded by the publishers as the standard.
1887Through the Looking-GlassLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1887People's edition. Pictorial olive-green cloth, black lettering. This edition was entirely revised and reset; many of the changes in punctuation were adopted in the reset version of the Ordinary Edition (1897). Issued in January 1888. It has been reprinted many times and is today the form regarded by the publishers as the standard
1889Sylvie and BrunoLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1889First edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Black end-papers.
1890The Nursery "Alice"London: Macmillan & Co., 1889First edition with illustrations by John Tenniel coloured. Cream pictorial boards. 10,000 sets of sheets were printed by Edmund Evans but Dodgson rejected the entire edition in sheets, as the pictures were ‘far too bright and gaudy’.
ALSO: Second (First published) edition. The second edition appears to differ from the first only in the date 1890, in the substitution of ‘Price four Shillings’ above the imprint, and in the Advertisements at the end.
ALSO: New York: Macmillan, 1890. Second (American) issue after the twelve copies specially bound-up with unpriced titles and advertisements to serve as samples for the American market. Cream pictorial boards. 4000 copies of the rejected sheets were sent to America and the book published there with a tipped-in folded preliminary leaf, including title dated 1890 and the imprint of Macmillan & Co. of New York.
ALSO: London: Macmillan, 1889. 3rd issue (People's Edition). In 1891, after the publication of the reprinted English (First published) edition. a quantity of the 6000 remaining sets of sheets were made-up with unpriced titles, overprinted at the head: PEOPLE’S EDITION | PRICE TWO SHILLINGS, and orange end-papers. Note: The edition uses the cancelled title page with the date of 1889, but 1891.
ALSO: London: Macmillan, 1890, but 1897. Cheap issue. The remaining sets of sheets were made-up with priced titles, overprinted: PRICE ONE SHILLING with an ornamental bar over the earlier price. These have white end-papers. Note: In addition to the above, fourteen uncoloured copies of the first edition were specially bound for presentation in 1889: the earliest was inscribed by Dodgson to Alice Hargreaves and dated 13 Aug. 1889; another, at Harvard, has ‘Four Shillings’ on the title page and the Preface dated ‘Christmas, 1889.’
1893Sylvie and Bruno ConcludedLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1893First edition. Red cloth, gilt lettering, all edges gilt. Black end-papers. Chapter 8 in the table of contents is given as at p. 110 instead of p. 113, also in the fourth line of the Preface it is stated that the illustration of the locket is on p. 405, whereas it is on p. 409; the last five illustrations are not on the pages given in the list of illustrations.
1898Three Sunsets and Other PoemsLondon: Macmillan & Co., 1898First edition. Green pictorial cloth glit.


  • Wikipedia
  • The Lewis Carroll Handbook by Sydney Herbert Williams & Falconer Madan, 1979

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