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At £23,000, a copy of the 1866, second (first published edition) of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was probably the most expensive Lewis Carroll lot sold over the Christmas period, but there were also rare, if somewhat cheaper examples of his work to be found elsewhere.

The Alice… offered at Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on December 13, was a first state copy that Carroll (Charles Dodgson) sent to Richard St John Tyrwhitt, a fellow student at Christ Church and later vicar of St Mary Magdalene, Oxford, who became a close friend.

A letter offered with the lot suggests that Dodgson, as he did with other recipients, had asked Tyrwhitt to return the original, now very rare first version. Dodgson viewed it as badly printed and unacceptable, and insisted that it be withdrawn and re-printed.

Carroll collector

A Dominic Winter (19.5% buyer’s premium) sale of December 15 offered a Carroll collection formed over 25 years by David Lansley.

Having realised that some material was always going to prove too costly for his means, he had nevertheless acquired some real rarities before deciding that, bibliographically speaking, he was full, and the time had come to change his collecting direction.

Sold at £5200 was a four-page leaflet, addressed to the governing body of Christ Church College and printed by the OUP in 1873, in which Dodgson voiced his Objections to Proposed Alterations to the Great Quadrangle. No other copy, said the saleroom, had been seen at auction since 1977, when an example made $150 at Sotheby’s New York.

Uninscribed, but one of the 140 copies of The Hunting of the Snark… of 1876 that Dodgson had specially bound for presentation – this example being one of the 20 blue and gold versions – was sold for £3600.

Bid to £6400 was a watercolour portrait by Alice Havers of her daughter, Lilian, listening to a caged canary singing – a picture that (as he noted on the back) was later given to Dodgson by the sitter and hung on the walls of his college rooms.

This Alice, who always painted under her maiden name, was the illustrator of an 1887 work called Bumblebee Bogo’s Budget by “a Retired Judge”, the diplomat and writer WWF Synge.

One of 25 special gilt-edged copies of the book that Dodgson inscribed for Dorothy, daughter of Harry Furniss, illustrator of Dodgson’s own 1889-93 Sylvie and Bruno books, sold at £2800.

From another property came a copy of Cakeless, a slim, disbound work printed in Oxford in 1874. A satirical verse drama based around an incident at Christ Church College, it had been immediately suppressed, but then in 1928, in a letter to The Times, it was said by one HC Ingle to be the most famous of all of Dodgson’s pamphlets.

In fact it is now recognised as the work of the Rev John Howe Jenkins and contains a rather bitter attack on Dodgson and on the Liddells, the family of the real Alice.

A rare item, it was valued at £100- 150 but sold for £1250 in the South Cerney auction.

Further works

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An exceptionally well preserved example of the 250 first issue copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit that Beatrix Potter had privately printed for presentation and sale (at one shilling and tuppence) in December 1901. Estimated at $40,000-60,000, it sold for just $30,000 (£22,305) at Christie’s New York (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on December 5. Back in 2004, a fine copy from the collections of Justin Schiller made $80,000 in the same rooms.

Children’s books that made their auction mark elsewhere in recent London sales included works by Oscar Wilde, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl that feature among the accompanying illustrations, as do some some original Rackham artworks.

Also of note in the latter category was a preparatory ink and brown wash drawing of the ‘Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that made £38,000 at Sotheby’s on December 12.

Elsewhere, a 1937 first issue of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the jacket showing some later repairs and re-colouring to the spine, made $40,000 (£29,940) at Sotheby’s New York (25/20/12.9% buyer’s premium) on December 11.

Sold for £1600 by Chorley’s (20/15/12.5/10% buyer’s premium) in a November 21-22 sale was a first English edition of Carlo Collodi’s The Story of a Puppet, or The Adventures of Pinocchio.

With illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti and issued in patterned boards, the latter was published by T Fisher Unwin in 1892, as part of its ‘Children’s Library’.