This week’s post is from Head Librarian, Gerald Cloud.
After almost one year since joining the Clark, I have learned that there is a category of books and manuscripts here that might be placed under the heading: I’ll-bet-you-didn’t-know-it-was-at-the-Clark. One of these items is an interesting letter that Mr. Clark himself purchased from the bookseller A. S. W. Rosenbach in September 1926. The letter, shown below, was hand written on a single sheet, folded once to make four pages, dated December 20, 1863:
The letter is signed by C.L. Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, and the “Dear Sir” he addresses is the English dramatist and longtime contributor and editor of Punch magazine, Tom Taylor. The topic of the letter? Mr. Dodgson seeks an introduction to a Mr. Tenniel, and wonders if Taylor knows the man well enough “to say whether he could undertake such a thing as drawing a dozen wood-cuts to illustrate a child’s book…?” Taylor provided an introduction a month later and, according to Dodgson’s diary, Tenniel consented in April 1864, to produce the desired illustrations. When Mr. Clark purchased the letter shown here it was included in a volume of the book in question.
The book of course is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the “Tenniel” in question is John Tenniel, now famous for his Alice illustrations. The letter is a stunning document of the almost casual process by which Dodgson, i.e., Lewis Carroll came to produce one of the most enduring books of the last two centuries, and a testament to the discerning eye of Mr. Clark as a collector. Watch this blog for future entries describing items from the I’ll-bet-you-didn’t-know-it-was-at-the-Clark category.