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Alice150 in New York: Daily News September 4

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Celebrate 150 years of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ this fall with events in NYC and elsewhere

Friday, September 4, 2015, 2:21 PM
Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was published 150 years ago this year.BRITISH LIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published 150 years ago this year.

Why is a raven like a writing desk? Lewis Carroll never gave us an answer to the Mad Hatter’s famous riddle in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” but the answers to plenty of other questions about the author and his iconic work can be found this fall at museum and library events in New York and around the world. This year marks 150 years since Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole was first published in 1865. Having inspired countless film adaptations, theatrical stagings, translations, parodies and even video games, its legacy today is unmistakable. Historians and librarians are taking the opportunity to pay homage to the beloved children’s book by showcasing artifacts, rare editions, performances and other exhibits related to Carroll and “Alice.” Here’s a list of highlights in the New York City area. From now through Oct. 11, the Morgan Library and Museum is hosting the original manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” usually held at the British Library in London. Rare editions of the book, original letters and drawings, and never-before-seen items are also featured in the exhibit,“Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland.”

The beloved book, with illustrations by John Tenniel, has inspired countless films, stage productions and translations.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The beloved book, with illustrations by John Tenniel, has inspired countless films, stage productions and translations.

A century and a half after its publication, Carroll’s “Alice” is still being translated into different languages around the world. A unique exhibit at theGrolier Club book society in Manhattan will showcase translations of the work. “Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece” opens Sept. 16 and runs through Nov. 21. At Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library branch, the Lewis Carroll Society will give a dramatic reading of the “The Mad Tea Party,” one of the most memorable chapters of the book. Set for Sept. 19, it’s part of the “bookend events” for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival. FOLLOW THE PAGE VIEWS BLOG ON TWITTER At the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, a free multimedia exhibit will present the history of Carroll’s Alice stories on the stage, starting with the first theatrical performance in 1886. Playbills, ads and photos will be displayed alongside audio and video to illustrate these performances, with an emphasis on productions in New York. “Alice Live!” will be at the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery at Lincoln Center from Oct. 2 through Jan. 16. MoMath, the Museum of Mathematics, will explore the art, magic and math of “Alice in Wonderland” at one of their “Unbounded” adult-only theme nights on Oct. 2.

A new 150th anniversay edition includes Salvador Dali's artwork.PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

A new 150th anniversay edition includes Salvador Dali’s artwork.

On Oct. 8, Mark Burstein, president emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and editor of several books about Carroll, will appear at92nd Street Y for a talk on the legacy of “Alice in Wonderland,” with a focus on his Salvador Dali-illustrated edition of the book. The Disney movies based on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” are perhaps even more well-known than the book.Sony Wonder Technology Lab in New York City is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the book with screenings of some of the iconic films it has inspired, including the 1951 animated “Alice in Wonderland” and Tim Burton’s 2010 live-action version. They’ll also host a Wonderland-themed workshop on animation, where participants can create their own short animated movie. Those events will be held Oct. 10, but throughout October, they’re also showing a 14-minute behind-the-scenes short film about the 2010 movie. The Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia is honoring “Alice” with several events and exhibitions starting in October, including “Alice in Philly-land,” which explores the city’s connections to the work. There’s also a “Croquet in Wonderland” party at Dilworth Park Oct. 15, and an interactive gallery at the museum will let visitors try to solve some of Carroll’s famous riddles and puzzles. On the Web, a group of 12 Carroll scholars have been picking apart the book chapter by chapter. Follow their annotations and see some animated “remixes” of the illustrations on Medium.  Other events are being held throughout the U.S. and the world. Check out for more..

A Personal Guided Tour of the Morgan Exhibit by Danny Ashkenasi

Notes from a Composer

personal musings on music, theater and a life in the arts by Danny Ashkenasi


Alice and me

Alice exhibit 1Yesterday my Speakeasy co-producer Kelly Aliano and I went to The Morgan museum to take in their Alice – 150 Years of Wonderland exhibit, and tour the ground floor of the magnate’s palatial home and library too.  As Lewis Carroll’s Alice books are such a big part of my musical Speakeasy – the Adventures of John and Jane Allison in the Wonderland, it seemed very apropos to check out this exhibit and share some impressions on this blog.  Photography was allowed but limited only to those items that are part of the Morgan collection and not on loan.

We joined a tour in progress.  The volunteer guide regaled us with the story of how Carroll, who initially independently financed the publishing of his books, considered the first press run not up to his exacting standards.  So a new edition was produced at great expense.  The “spoiled” books were not scrapped, however, but were shipped out for sale in the US market.  I guess what wasn’t good enough for home consumption was just fine for the uncouth Yankees.

Alice exhibit 4Alice exhibit 5

Alice exhibit 2The exhibit focuses heavily on John Tenniel’s original illustrations, which in the guide’s (and my humble) opinion are the standard against which all future illustrations are (usually unfavorably) measured.  John Tenniel, who lived to be 94(!), drew only in pencil, so any ink or colored in version of his work would be a copy, not necessarily a forgery but often mistakenly attributed to Tenniel.  For “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” Carroll meticulously pre-planned subject and lay-out of all illustrations, and drew many himself.  He was unsatisfied with the quality of his own work, and thus turned to Tenniel.  When Carroll hired Tenniel to illustrate the second Alice book “Through the Looking Glass”, Carroll had so much confidence in Tenniel’s work that he gave the artist free reign to choose and design the illustrations.  Carroll even excised a chapter called “The Wasp in the Wig”, when Tenniel insisted it was not possible to illustrate such a thing.

Alice exhibit 3

A highlight of the exhibit was the screening of a surviving print of a 1903 silent movie short of Alice in Wonderland.  Very few movies of that era survive, so this is something special, especially considering that it shows that certain camera tricks and special effects were already in use so early in film making history (the screen picture in The Morgan is brighter than this YouTube embed.  The shot where Alice “shrinks” or “grows” shows the background against which she is changing size more clearly, for example):

For shame, Danny, plying a minor with dubious potent portables!

Kelly and Alice. Kelly is at the right.

The Guide solicited readings from the attendees, which is how I was roped into reciting the Jabberwocky in full classical actor mode, after I had heedlessly mumbled out loud that it is a rather difficult poem to sight-read:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves

And the mome raths outgrabe



Luckily my classical training (cough cough) stood me in good stead and I managed a credible performance.  The guide talked about how the poem has been translated into several languages.  One attendee said that should be easy, since you wouldn’t have to translate the “nonsense” words but simply “copy them”.  But I didn’t think it would be so easy, although I kept my thoughts to myself.  The sounds of letters don’t translate directly from language to language, and even so don’t necessarily evoke the same feelings from language to language, so some thought would have to be put into effectively translating even a nonsense word.  And a google search of the German version, called “Der Jammerwoch”, bears that out.

alice exhibit 8Alice exhibit 9Identity, unfixed, mutable, confounding, its loss or the changing ways one is perceived by others and by oneself, is a big part of Carroll’s Alice books.

This theme is carried over into the musical “Speakeasy”.

Much like Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Speakeasy’s John and Jane Allison find themselves changing in subtle and alarming ways.  Who and what they are is questioned and challenged repeatedly, by others and even themselves.  John, like Alice, even literally forgets himself, falling into a kind of identity amnesia at one point.

The name Lewis Carroll itself is an identity that the author, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, created (see right).

There is so much more to see at the Morgan’s Alice exhibit, and so much more for me to say about Alice and Speakeasy.  For now, look forward to more articles and enjoy the ones already posted.

And to close, below are some images from the main part of The Morgan: ground floor of J.P. Morgan’s wildly opulent home with its cathedral parlor, massive library, and the richly musty, dark study.

The Parlor:

Morgan 1Morgan 2

Morgan 3

The Library:

morgan 4 morgan 5

Morgan 6

The Study:

Morgan 7Morgan 8

Morgan 9

The large vault, where Morgan kept especially valuable books

Major priceless paintings line the walls of the study, but pride of place of course goes to the portrait of J. P. Morgan himself

Wall Street Journal article of June 12: For the anniversary of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ translations into Pashto, Esperanto, emoji and Blissymbols

This post contains excerpts from the WSJ article, which emphasizes Alice translations, including a preview of the ground-breaking three volume set, Alice in a World of Wonderlands.

See full article

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic about a pert girl in a pinafore who falls down a rabbit hole into a magical and menacing underground world, is marking its 150th anniversary with new translations. She is Alis (in Yiddish), or Alisi (in Tongan) or Anya (in Russian), and, despite her advanced age, to readers everywhere she remains a curious youngster whose adventures have never gone out of print.

Two Yale professors are translating “Alice” into Late Egyptian hieroglyphs. A language consultant in California is putting the finishing touches on a Kazakh translation. There is an emoji version. An edition in Scouse, the dialect of Liverpool, is with the publisher; so are ones in Cockney rhyming slang and in two Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto. The Gothic translation came out just last week.




Alice in a World of Wonderlands

Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ is probably second only to the 17th-century allegory, ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress,’ as the most translated English novel. A three-volume work documents more than 170 translations, from Afrikaans to Zulu. 

Sinhala translation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ 1963
Georgian translation, 1969
Armenian translation, 1971
Bosnian translation, 1980
Marathi translation, 1982
Papiamento translation, 1988
Asturian translation, 1989
Gujarati translation, 1950
Occitan translation, 1998
Bengali translation, 2004
Albanian translation, 2006
Manx translation, 2006
Tamil translation, 2008
Assamese translation, 2008
Indonesian translation, 2009
Slovak translation, 2010
Persian translation, 2012

‘Alice in a World of Wonderlands’

Sinhala translation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ 1963

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Sinhala translation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ 1963 Oak Knoll Press
Georgian translation, 1969 Oak Knoll Press
Armenian translation, 1971 Oak Knoll Press
Bosnian translation, 1980 Oak Knoll Press
Marathi translation, 1982 Oak Knoll Press
Papiamento translation, 1988 Oak Knoll Press
Asturian translation, 1989 Oak Knoll Press
Gujarati translation, 1950 Oak Knoll Press
Occitan translation, 1998 Oak Knoll Press
Bengali translation, 2004 Oak Knoll Press
Albanian translation, 2006 Oak Knoll Press
Manx translation, 2006 Oak Knoll Press
Tamil translation, 2008 Oak Knoll Press
Assamese translation, 2008 Oak Knoll Press
Indonesian translation, 2009 Oak Knoll Press
Slovak translation, 2010 Oak Knoll Press
Persian translation, 2012 Oak Knoll Press
Sinhala translation of ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ 1963 Oak Knoll Press

New York Times article 2015/03/19

New York Times article 2015/03/19

While the Alice of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was a fictional British character, she has touched the hearts of young and old worldwide, particularly in the United States.

So it will come as no surprise that many of this year’s commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the novel’s 1865 publication are taking place in this country, also the headquarters of the thriving Lewis Carroll Society of North America.

Exhibitions that are already underway include “Peanuts in Wonderland,” at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., through April 26, which displays Schulz’s parodies of the Carroll tale and of its illustrations by John Tenniel. A show running through mid-June at the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library features material from its children’s books collection.

An exhibition through July 6 at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin features 200 items, including Salvador Dalí illustrations for a 1969 edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”; a restored 1933 paper filmstrip, called “Alice and the Mad Hatter”; and an area where children and the young at heart can enjoy a pretend tea party. Exhibitions are planned at the Houghton Library at Harvard, starting May 18, and at the Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland in September.


‘ALICE’ From left, a 1948 comic-book version; an undated set of colored pencils; and a print of an illustration by John Tenniel, colored by hand in 1885. Credit Harry Ransom Center, first two images, and Morgan Library & Museum

Many of the main events will unfold in New York, where the Morgan Library & Museum will display Carroll’s original manuscript, on loan from the British Library, from June 26 through Oct. 11. The exhibition will include items related to Carroll’s young muse, Alice Liddell, including his hand-colored photograph of her; her writing case and purse; and Carroll’s diary entry of July 4, 1862, the day be began to compose the story on a boating excursion on the Thames with her. The show will include original drawings and hand-colored proofs of Tenniel illustrations.

Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson, a University of Oxford mathematician who wrote “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its 1871 sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There” for Alice, a daughter of his Oxford dean, Henry Liddell.