Carroll is Everywhere

Today marks the opening of our Down The Rabbit Hole exhibitions, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland. I think Lewis Carroll would be very pleased that his book has had such staying power. In our “Wonderland Rules” show, exhibit curator Leonard Marcus points out:
Alice has had one of the most extraordinary of all
literary after-lives, a worldwide response encompassing scores of
re-illustrated editions, more than 170 translations, and a host of literary and
pictorial-art homages and parodies, musical treatments, stage and film adaptations,
fashion and advertising pastiches, toys, collectibles, tea towels, and more. James
Joyce, René Magritte, and the creators of Batman all drew inspiration from Carroll’s
endlessly evocative creation, while pundits in search of the perfect headline
or punch line have had no further to look than to such Alice aphorisms as, “We’re all mad here,” and “Curiouser and

As part of our celebration, this week we are also hosting the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, which has garnered some wonderful press attention, still further proof of the enduring appeal of and fascination with the tale. You can read the write up in the Philadelphia Inquirer, see a clip on CBS 3  and there may yet be more to come.

But even beyond the enduring power of Alice, there are other hints of Lewis Carroll everywhere. Just two weeks ago, the New York Times crossword puzzle for October 1st  featured a word ladder running from the upper left to lower right of the puzzle. Where do word ladders come from–Lewis Carroll of course! He invented the game as “Doublets” in the 1870s and its one of the games featured in our exhibit “Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk: Lewis Carroll’s Puzzles and Games.”

Then this past Monday, an op-ed piece in the New York Times focused on “The Importance of Recreational Math”. The piece was an homage to puzzle creator Martin Gardner, but I think Carroll was lurking in the background and would have been pleased that
someone was making a plea for the relevance of puzzle math. Carroll, who taught mathematics at Oxford under his real name Charles
Dodgson, loved games and puzzles and was a pioneer in recreational
mathematics. He definitely inspired Martin Gardner, who wrote and edited a number of works on Carroll, including The Annotated Alice and The Universe in a Handkerchief: Lewis Carroll’s Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles and Word Plays. The Times piece included some great links to contemporary puzzle math sites such as Puzzle Playground and you can learn more about the mathematical underpinnings of Carroll’s own games in our exhibit.

So here’s to 150 years of Alice in Wonderland and to the inventive mind of Lewis Carroll that gave us Alice and so much more!

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach  and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

One thought on “Carroll is Everywhere

  1. The Rosenbach is a long-time friend of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. I am happy that Philadelphia is celebrating Alice150. Everyone who can should attend as many events as possible. The 150th anniversary of the first publication is an occasion well worth celebrating. Say hi to Madison Hatta.

    Joel Birenbaum Chair of Alice150: Celebrating Wonderland (NY)

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