What better way to immerse yourself in the treasures of the capital than to head to the British Library? Whilst the building itself is pretty despondent (definitely in need of a lick of paint), once I stepped inside I was rendered speechless! There’s really no way to describe it, the displays of ancient books were something else, and I would recommend it to any student looking for a calming place to do some hard work. The collection is home to every single publication produced in the UK and Ireland, meaning the library holds over 150 million books, including Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
Carroll’s much loved story has been inspiring generations of readers since its release in 1865. Fun fact for you all, Carroll’s real name was actually Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (no wonder he used a pseudonym, Lutwidge???). The exhibition has been open since the 21st November 2015 and doesn’t close until April 2016, so if you are a fan of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, you still have plenty of time to see the exhibit!
Encased in the large glass displays were the original copies of Carroll’s first drafts. His script was impeccable and the accompanying illustrations were fantastic. Seeing the progression of Alice throughout the decades portrayed the evolution of artistic styles. I took a few pictures, although I’m pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to – if any of the staff from the library ever read this, I’m sorry!!!
The Alice that we all know and love is a little blonde girl with a cute pale blue dress, however in the first publications, she was a brunette (Shock, horror!). This was apparently reminiscent of the pre-Raphaelite art of Carroll’s painter and illustrator friends. Dante Rossetti (a painter and aspiring poet) was a founder of the brotherhood who vowed to bring back the intense colours and detailed style of art that was popular before the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo.
Whilst the exhibit itself was very small & cramped, I quickly lost myself in the beauty of the aged pages and delicate illustrations. In addition to Carroll and his creations, the exhibit involved some modern surrealist prints of the famous Cheshire Cat and the restless White Rabbit. The later illustrations used in Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were produced by John Tenniel. His drawings were transferred to wood as engravings to preserve their integrity from book to book, as the same image could be reused as a kind of stamp. (Just look at those lines!!!! AMAZING)
With everyone packed into such a confined area, it was hard to read everything on offer and truly learn about the creative process that Carroll and his team employed. However, after soaking up as much creativity as I could, I headed straight to the pop-up shop, and I was not disappointed! There was an abundance of adorable tea party inspired accessories along with beautifully re-illustrated copies of the classic. A personal favourite from the shop was the tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee teacups, I didn’t buy them though for fear of being dumped by my boyfriend…
After coming home (and snapping out of my illusions of wonderland) I was inspired to create some of my own illustrations to accompany the books. Once they’re finished I’ll be sure to post them under the ‘Personal Artwork’ tab! Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss it 🙂
If you have been to the exhibition, have been inspired to go or to create your own illustrations, let me know!! Comment below 🙂 I hope January has treated you all well.