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Charles Dodgson and Lewis Carroll intertwined

Charles Dodgson, or rather Lewis Carroll, is primarily known as the author of the children’s classics, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Yet any collection of his works would be incomplete without recognising his expertise in the field of mathematics. In fact many of his fictional works combine his skills of creating fanciful stories and challenging logical and mathematical problems.

Charles L. Dodgson (1832-98) was the mathematical lecturer at Christ Church College at Oxford University, UK for twenty-five years. Teaching and simplifying geometry and mathematical concepts was an issue that greatly interested Dodgson and he was keen to develop an accessible approach to the subject.An Elementary Treatise on Determinants by Charles Dodgson Lewis Carroll

One of his earliest papers was published in 1866 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London concerning a method for evaluating determinants called the condensation method. His paper documented a new method to calculate determinants that was based on Jacobi’s Theorem. The first edition of the book was published in 1867 under the title of An Elementary Treatise on Determinants and is one of Dodgson’s most academic and also rare works. See our copy https://rareandantiquebooks.com/first-edition-books/elementary-treatise-determinants-charles-dodgson/

His later mathematical publications had a lighter feel. From his tutoring and coaching came the first of many published mathematical pamphlets. His style was to prepare stories, puzzles and other literary styles to explain mathematical concepts in a popular way. For example, although the play Euclid and his Modern Rivals (1879) was written as fiction, it is a defense of Euclid’s Elements as the best textbook for geometry scholars, an issue of contention at the time. In his introduction to the book, his skill at intertwining a playful approach to mathematics appeals to the non-scientific audience. It was around this time Dodgson invented his pen name as he thought he should distinguish his two types of writing, mathematical and fiction, yet he continued to intertwine these two themes in his future books.

A Tangled Tale by Lewis Carroll

 

One of Dodgson’s characteristic ways to encourage the public to become involved in his games was the inclusion of puzzles in popular magazines. For example, between 1880 and 1885 he published A Tangled Tale as a serial in the Monthly Packet. Dodgson used “knots” to signify the difficulty of the one, two or three problems it featured. His comments on the solution to the puzzle would follow in the subsequent issue often with amusing thoughts from the public on the problem. The book of The Tangled Tale was released in 1885 by Alexander Macmillan of Macmillan, who published all but two of his books over the thirty-five years of their friendship. Dodgson also presented several first editions of his books to public libraries, as with this copy of Symbolic Logic, donated to the Wigan Free Library in 1896. https://rareandantiquebooks.com/first-edition-books/charles-dodgson-symbolic-logic/

Dodgson’s love of making puzzles accessible to others is indicated with his publication of Doublets. A new puzzle was introduced into the magazine Vanity Fair in 1879 and Dodgson published a guide to the game with a glossary of suitable words to be used for future puzzles. This word game is now recognised as a popular brain teaser today.

The Game of Logic Lewis Carroll First EditionIn The Game of Logic Dodgson offers creative mental play to teach the fundamentals of logic and spatial representation of logical statements. He uses colourful ways of demonstrating the serious mathematical statements by using counters on a board in certain ways to denote cakes with certain characteristics (tasty, non-tasty, fresh, not-fresh). Dodgson employed his typical light-hearted approach to explanations using humour and absurdities to make a point as in, the “game” is for at least one player.

Of course Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson, is best known for his fictional books of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872). Yet he managed to carve out a rare place in literary history by combining his interests in mathematics and fiction. His ability to seamlessly include challenging logic and entertainment have, over time, ensured a consistent appeal to readers and collectors alike .

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Endurance Writing for Children

Endurance Writing for Children:

Climbing trees, building dens and creating fantasy are common childhood pleasures and adventures. Children’s authors love to write about them. Yet only a select number of authors have managed to capture generations of children with their stories.

Classic children’s authors like Edith Nesbit, J. R.R Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis are writers who have mastered the skill. They cleverly created a world of magic and inverted logic that was entirely their own. Their literature is about children not for children. A way of keeping their inner child alive for the authors. As C.S. Lewis comments, When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. Yet adults secretly also like to read these children’s tales with bedtime reading rituals being the excuse!

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.TolkienThe trick of engaging the reader into a journey of childhood adventure is an art that J.R. R Tolkien perfected. Sometimes he writes as a guide to the reader and sometimes he seems to be only a step ahead of the reader. The suspense of the adventure is compelling and artfully employed in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Successful children’s literature must also never shy awThe Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbitay from the darker side of life. One of Edith Nesbit’s most popular stories portray the practical and fantastical side of childhood adventures. The Enchanted Castle describes the ghastly tales of creatures in the dark in a magical nightmare. She is not afraid of describing things as they are, including frightening experiences.

C.S. Lewis was a master at engaging adults as well as children into his literature. As he comments,  In my own first story I had described at length what I thought a rather fine high tea given by a hospitable faun to the little girl who was my heroine. A man, who has children of his own, said, “Ah, I see how you got to that. If you want to please grown-up readers you give them sex, so you thought to yourself, ‘That won’t do for children, what shall I give them instead? I know! The little blighters like plenty of good eating.” In reality, however, I myself like eating and drinking. I put in what I would have liked to read when I was a child and what I still like reading now that I am in my fifties. Lewis’s  tales of a group of children getting drawn into a world of fantasy adventure in The Chronicles of Narnia remain as appealing to adults as to children.Alice-Adventures-In-Wonderland-Lewis-Carroll-First-Edition-1881 (2)

Writing children’s literature is often best developed when it grows out of a story that has been told by the author to a particular child. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland adventures were directly meant for Alice Liddell, his child friend. Beatrix Potter’s books were initially written as letters to the children she was governed. The infamous and enduring  Babar books of Jean De Brunhof were started with his recording his bedtime stories to his young sons.

Certainly creating a writing style that encourages generations of readers to keep turning to the books for childhood reading and nostalgia is a talent. C.S. Lewis comments,  I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. There are certainly a few authors who have achieved that long lasting attraction.

The-Tale-Of-Peter-Rabbit-Beatrix-Potter-1st-edition-5th-printing (15)The Story of Babar First Edition by Jean De Brunhoff Preface by A. A. Milne

To see more first edition books for children go here

 

 

 

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The First Editions of The Nursery Alice

The First Editions of The Nursery Alice

Alice in Wonderland is traditionally thought of as a children’s book (although many adults secretly read it!). Yet it’s original appeal was not to the younger aged child. Maybe Lewis Carroll thought to amend this after seeing the 1874 Dutch simplified copy of Alice in Wonderland. He subsequently wrote to his publisher, Macmillan to suggest a coloured, large print and reduced version of the book. He commented that he wished it to be “read, to be cooed over, to be dogs’ eared, to be rumpled, to be kissed,” by children from nought to five. He re-wrote the story in a child friendly format as if it was being read aloud, almost as a fairy story. It begins with “Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Alice, and she had a very curious dream.” His clever use of questions endeared children to the book. For example, “Which would you have liked the best, do you think, to be a little tiny Alice, no larger than a kitten, or a great tall Alice, with your head always knocking against the ceiling?” He also appealed to children by including a reference to a puppy called Dash – a sure winner for attracting children.

However, much of the success of the story must be also be given to the use of the popular and original illustrations by John Tenniel. The copyright expired in 1907 yet Tenniel approved the use of twenty of his images for this children’s book.

The first editions did not escape Carroll’s precise attention to detail. He rejected the entire original 10,000 sets of sheets printed by Edmund Evans claiming that the pictures were “far too bright and gaudy”. The sheets were therefore reprinted and the casings were used in subsequent editions. Twelve copies were specially bound up with un-priced titles as advertisements to the American market. Another 4,000 of these rejected sheets were sent to America with an added tipped in folded preliminary leaf dated 1890. The 6,000 remaining sheets were made up with un-priced titles as the 3rd People’s Edition. The final sets of sheets were published as a fourth issue in 1897 with an amended cheaper price label . In addition, a specially bound set of fourteen presentation editions were published in 1889.

Interestingly the Tenniel illustrations were also amended in the second editions of the Nursery Alice. The profile of Alice’s face looking at the Cheshire Cat are quite different in this second 1890 publication.

The Tale of the First Editions of The Nursery Alice The Tale of the First Editions of The Nursery Alice

 

 

Of course, Alice in Wonderland has never been out of print and there are over one hundred English versions of this classic book. Yet the first editions of the Nursery versions are quite special – and you might even catch some adults reading them!

To see our editions of the Nursery Alice in Wonderland as well as other books by Lewis Carroll click here

 

 

 

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Five of the Best Books for Children

Five of the Best Books for Children

Someone recently challenged Barbara Chalk, the proprietor of Rare & Antique Books, to choose five of the best books for children from the Rare and Antique booksite. This is what she had to say.

Where do I start as I love them all! However, in the spirit of the task I have endeavoured to narrow them down to the following five which are of particular interest to me at the moment.

Miniature Editions of Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel 1907 & 1908

Of course I am cheating here as this is actually two books but they make such a charming pair I couldn’t separate them! The reason for their appeal is their size – they look like they have been given some of Alice’s size reducing potion! The original Tenniel’s illustrations are intact and in their original black and white format. In 1907 Macmillan marked the expiry of the copyright of Alice’s Adventures by issuing several new editions, publicising them with a Punch cartoon captioned ‘Tenniel’s Alice Reigns Supreme’. “The Sixpenny Series” was the first of these in December of that year. In 1903 they issued the “Little Folks Edition” with new colour pictures of Tenniel and an abbreviated text. The “Illustrated Pocket Classic” followed in 1904. This miniature edition published in 1907 was a real success and remains a highly collectable edition. A charming pair of books.

A Gallery of Children A. A. Milne

A selection of the best children’s books must surely include an A. A. Milne book. The well known Winnie the Pooh books are very endearing and an easy choice. However, Milne produced a wide range of novels, plays and short stories which merit celebration. One of these is this charming collection of children’s fantasy stories written between A-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-EditionhisA-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-Edition poetry book of “When We Were Very Young” 1924 and “Winnie The Pooh” 1926. It was his first book of prose for children. This hardcover book was first published in 1925 by the Stanley Paul & Co. London and the David McKay Company in Philadelphia. The illustrator Saida, otherwise known as H. Willebbek Le Mair, was initially famous for her illustrations for toothpaste advertisements in magazines. Her delightful pictures complement Milne’s twelve stories making this edition a wonderful demonstration of the writing talents of A. A. Milne.

The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman 1901

The-Story-Of-Little-Black-Sambo-Fifth-Edition-Helen-Bannerman (2)Chosen for its perfect condition this little book is absolutely charming with delightful illustrations. Much of the appeal of the book lies in its size as the book measures only 5-5 3/4 inches in size making it appear like a toy book. Reading the book has an element of anticipation of what is to come as the writing and images are only one side of the pages. The book was initially published by Grant Richards as a series of small formatted books called The Dumpy Books for Children between 1897 and 1904.  The classic and well known story is of a little boy and of course the terminology within the test is now obsolete and outdated. Yet in it’s time the book was a children’s favourite for more than half a century and so serves as a reminder of historical social change.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis 1950-1956

Again I think I am cheating by including more than one book! Yet this set of seven fantasy stories have featured in thousands of children’s bookshelves – over 100 million copies published in 47 languages. It remains a classic children’s work of literature covering themes of religion, race and gender and has been a source of controversial literary debate. Pauline Baynes’s fine pen and ink original illustrations, especially the maps of Narnia, are still used in publications today. ThThe-Chronicles-of-Narnia-C.S.Lewis-first-editione Chronicles tells of several children who are magically transported to the world of Narnia to protect the lion, Asian, from Evil and restore him to his rightful place on the throne. The adventures cover the entire history of Narnia ending in The Last Battle. The first five books were originally published by Geoffrey Bles over a few years. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe published first in 1950 and , although complete, the next books Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, were issued one at a time from 1951 to 1954. The Silver Chair was written after The Horse and His Boy but published after it in 1953. The Bodley Head published the last two books, The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle in 1955 and 1956. Again the Magician’s Nephew was written after, but published before The Last Battle. There has been much discussion over the years as to the order of reading the books as some publishers have produced them in chronological rather than first published order. Whichever way they are read they still remain an enchanting read!

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, with a preface by A. A. Milne 1934

Babar the elephant is one of the most delightful children’s illustrated books. This edition has the added value of an introduction by the author of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne. In fact it was A. A. Milne who initially brought the little elephant to the attention of the British children’s book market. Milne first saw the French edition of the book at a friend’s house in 1932. He was so enthralled by the detailed illustrations and story that he persuaded his publishers, Methuen, to produce an English version. A. A. Milne wrote a charming introduction which helped to make the first edition an immediate success.
The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-MethuenThe-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen“If you love elephants you will love Babar. If you have never loved elephants you will love them now. If you are a grown-up and have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one that will fascinate you. If you are a child do not take these enchanting people to your heart; if you do not spend delightful hours making sure that no detail of their adventures has escaped you; then you deserve to wear gloves and be kept off wet grass for the rest of your life. I can say no more. I salute M. De. Brunhoff. I am at his feet. A. Milne”. Enough said I think!

Five of the best books for children? Well, they are my choice form the Rare and Antique book store today. As I love them all if you ask me tomorrow the list may well be different.

See other Children’s books for more choices.