CHICAGO – The phrase ‘falling down the rabbit hole’ has its origins in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the 1865 classic written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pen name of Lewis Carroll. The collectors Stephen and Nancy Farber built the ultimate rabbit hole in the form of a superlative collection of Alice-related books and collectibles, which will be presented at Potter & Potter Auctions on Thursday, November 30. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Potter & Potter’s Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts Chris Brink said, “The Farbers were truly ‘mad as a hatter’ when it came to collecting all things Alice. One focus of their collection were the hundreds of various illustrators that, since 1865, have been producing unique renditions of the characters and scenes from this popular children’s book. The Farbers also had a deep fascination for the many translations of the work, chief among them perhaps the most important: the ‘original Alice’s copy’ of [Vladimir] Nabokov’s Russian translation of Alice. We are excited to jump down this rabbit hole on November 30.”
The book of which Brink speaks appears as lot 83, and was published in Berlin in 1923. It is signed in brown ink on the front pastedown by Alice P. Hargreaves, formerly Alice Liddell, who, when she was small, inspired an Oxford University mathematician to spin a wild tale about a girl who shared her name. The Nabokov translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland into Russian with the peerless Alice provenance carries an estimate of $10,000-$15,000.
Offered as subsequent lots in the lineup are two different presentation copies of the first authorized edition and first published English edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. One is inscribed by its illustrator, John Tenniel, who threw in a sketch of the Mad Hatter with a tea cup in one hand and a piece of toast in the other. It is one of only two copies of an 1866 Alice with a sketch by Tenniel, and the only one known to feature a Tenniel sketch of the Mad Hatter character. Its estimate is $15,000-$25,000.
The other first authorized edition, first published English edition and presentation copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland consigned to the sale boasts a markedly heftier estimate of $30,000-$50,000, and not just because its inscription is from the author instead of the illustrator. In addressing the copy to British illustrator Richard Doyle, Dodgson signed it with his own name, and not that of Lewis Carroll. As the lot notes explain, such a signature is “exceedingly rare as Dodgson was careful to protect his privacy and to prevent his serious mathematical works from being linked with his books for children.” In addition, this particular copy was once owned by Max Charles Gaines, the father of Bill Gaines, who would launch EC Comics as well as Mad magazine. And it is offered with an 1872 first edition, first state copy, also previously owned by Gaines, of the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.