'Alice' is going through the roof

November 30, 1998|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- Had Charles Dodgson been told that sunny day in 1865 that the story he was telling three young passengers in his rowboat would be auctioned for perhaps as much as $2 million, he might have thought it more likely that a rabbit with a pocket watch would scurry by.

But 133 years later, Christie's New York is planning to auction a first edition of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" -- written by Dodgson under his famous pen name Lewis Carroll. The sale will take place Dec. 9.

The book belongs to Justin G. Schiller, a Manhattan book collector and dealer who purchased the first edition at auction in Paris for $56,000 in 1980. Only 22 first editions exist, because when it was published in 1865, the illustrator, John Tenniel, objected to the quality of the engravings and demanded that the printer recall the book. Six months later, it was reprinted. Of the 22 known originals, only five are in private hands.

But something else makes Schiller's copy stand out. The book has purple markings in the margins, and Francis Wahlgren, the head of Christie's book department, confirmed the theory of earlier scholars that they are Carroll's own notes. Apparently, Carroll edited this copy to produce a version for younger children, "The Nursery Alice."

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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