Friday, March 25, 2011

Alice Puts On Her Dancing Shoes At Scotland's Library

By Nancy Mattoon

Artwork For The Scottish Ballet's New Production
Based on Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

(All Images Courtesy of National Library of Scotland.)

The National Library of Scotland has teamed up with the Scottish Ballet to celebrate the creations of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll, especially his best known work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The ballet is mounting a new production based on Carroll's classic tale of Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, featuring choreography by Artistic Director Ashley Page, otherworldly designs from Antony McDonald, and a specially commissioned musical score by Robert Moran. As a tie-in with the Library, the ballet is providing a behind-the-scenes film montage of rehearsals for the pending production, and original costumes and sets from Alice, allowing library-goers to get a sneak preview of the show which premieres at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh in April 2011. Visitors will also have a chance to win tickets to the production by entering a competition at the Library.

John Tenniel's Illustration
Of Alice
and the Infamous "Drink Me" Bottle.

Not to be outdone by the Scottish Ballet, the National Library is bringing out its most treasured pieces of "Wonderlandiana" for a new exhibition. The aptly named Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display launches on Friday, March 18, 2011. Stephanie Breen, senior curator, of the National Library of Scotland, says: "The Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display is a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to get up close to a very rare issue of the book and other treasures which are seldom seen." A true highlight of the show is a rare copy of the withdrawn 1865 first issue of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, which the author hastily recalled after the first print run of 2,000 copies, following complaints about the quality of the printed illustrations from their creator, John Tenniel. Few copies of this run have survived, and the Library's copy is in the original red cloth binding.

Tenniel's Alice Upsetting The Jury Box.

Curator Breen noted that the Library's unusually fine collection of early editions of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland allow visitors to "have a wonderful opportunity to view the first and second editions side by side and examine the differences in printing between the withdrawn 1865 Alice, printed at the Clarendon Press, and the subsequent 1866 edition, printed by Richard Clay as a replacement."

Other highlights of the exhibition include:

  • A presentation copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1866), including a poem specially composed by the author for Marion Terry (1853-1930). Along with her sister, Ellen Terry, Marion became a celebrated stage actress. Miss Terry's presentation copy of The Hunting of the Snark (1876) will also be on display.
  • The first version of the Alice story to appear in color, known as The Nursery "Alice" (1890). The book was adapted for younger readers by Dodgson and accompanied by twenty color versions of John Tenniel's original illustrations, which were engraved and printed by leading Victorian color printer, Edmund Evans.
  • First editions of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872) showing the White Knight frontispiece and the Jabberwock illustration. Dodgson initially considered Tenniel's Jabberwock, intended for the frontispiece, "too terrible a monster" for his young readers.
  • An 1893 advertisement apologizing for the printing of the illustrations in the latest press run of Through the Looking-Glass, and requesting holders of copies to return them for exchange. Charles Dodgson wanted his readers to have nothing but "the best workmanship attainable for the price."
Arthur Rackham's Version
The Court Of The Queen Of Hearts.

  • Wonderland ephemera, such as The "Wonderland" Postage-Stamp-Case (first published 1890) and The Game of Logic (1887), as well as many handwritten letters from Dodgson.
Tenniel's Perpetually Late White Rabbit.

Catherine Cassidy, Associate Director of Education, Scottish Ballet, says: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with the National Library of Scotland and are particularly excited about reaching new audiences through both the display and our first ever backstage live stream event on April 21, 2011." Viewers will be treated to a glimpse of life behind the scenes at Scottish Ballet directly before the Company's premiere performance of Alice, and this event can be viewed live at the National Library with a post stream discussion, as well from the Scottish Ballet website. The Alice in Wonderland Treasures Display will be on show from March 18-May 2, 2011 at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

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