Friday, February 21, 2020

Alice's Adventures in Transatlantic Publishing

An image of Alice being attacked by a deck of cards
Last week a 19th-century English literature class came to visit us in Special Collections, and we had the chance to show them our first published English edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). We say "first published," because the actual first edition had such flawed misprinting of the accompanying images that John Tenniel, the illustrator, insisted that they be recalled and the edition suppressed. Carroll retrieved the advance copies that he had distributed to friends and instead shipped them off to orphanages. Today, there are only twenty-three remaining copies of this flawed first edition and (spoiler!) we don't have one.

However, we do have something almost as good. The publishing house, Macmillan and Company, had already invested in the printing and binding of 2,000 copies of the first edition, flawed images and all. So, to attempt to recoup their losses, and with Lewis's permission, they disbound the remaining withdrawn editions and sent the text blocks to the United States, where the New York publishing house D. Appleton & Company rebound them and inserted a fresh title page. Apparently, what wasn't good enough for English audiences was more than adequate for American ones. Here in Special Collections, we have copies of both the "first" English and first American editions, which allows us to compare the illustrations to see if Tenniel was on to something or merely being fussy. We'll let you decide for yourselves (the flawed original printing is on the left):

Frontispiece for the first American edition (w/original textblock)Frontispiece for the first British edition

Another exciting little detail about one of our copies is that it was a presentation copy. Inside the flyleaf, there is a dedication to "Ethel Reid," dated November 18th, 1865, and signed with the monogram "C.L.D." Given the date of the dedication, it is likely that this was a replacement volume for one of the initial fifty copies that Dodgson had requested early in order to give to friends. A letter accompanying our presentation copy, written by by Carroll biographer Sidney H. Williams in 1925, speculates that Ethel may have been one of the numerous children with whom Carroll was acquainted.

To see our presentation copy of the first published English edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, come to Special Collections and ask to see Val 825 D66 O215. To look at the first American edition, ask for Rare PZ8.D666 A1c.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Front cover of Hood's Sarsaparilla Parlor Games book
The first-year medical students at the Geisel School of Medicine visited Special Collections last week as a part of their On Doctoring course that introduces medical students to essential clinical skills through small group learning experiences. The course focuses on patient interviewing, physical diagnosis, clinical reasoning, and communication skills in developing the doctor-patient relationship. Here in Special Collections, we put some of those skills to the test by asking them to apply their powers of observation, interpretation, critical thinking, and communicating to historical documents from the archives.

Back cover of Hood's Sarsaparilla Parlor Games bookOne grouping of materials that the med students explored focused on 19th-century drug ads, including those found in a small pamphlet titled Hood's Sarsparilla Book of Parlor Games. This sixteen-page publication, generated by C. I. Hood & Co. Apothecaries out of Lowell, Massachusetts, has the stated goal of being "for the public benefit, to promote social enjoyment and good morals, [and] to give good health and cure disease." It's chock-full of fun games for boys and girls to play, with the instructions often right next to or leading directly into testimonials about the healing power of sarsaparilla. For example, one game called "Copenhagen" is played as follows: "A long piece of rope is passed around the room, each of the company taking hold on the outside, except one, who is called 'the Dane,' and remains in the centre. He endeavors to slap the hands of those who have hold of the rope, and if he succeeds, the person whose hands are slapped takes the place of the 'Dane.' Hood's Sarsaparilla purifies the blood."

Non-sequiturs notwithstanding, this little book is a fascinating glimpse into health and recreation in New England in the late nineteenth century. To pick up some new party games for your next big event, or to learn more about how sarsaparilla can cure everything from boils to malaria, come to Special Collections and ask for a dose of Rare RM671.C5 H6.