Dark Side of Wonderland: Ahead of V&A Museum Show, New Book Explores Alice in Wonderland

As the Victoria & Albert Museum prepares to celebrate Lewis Carroll’s heroine, ties to mysticism and magical societies have come to light in a new work, Through a Looking Glass Darkly

Great art spawns imitation. And great weird art, it seems, spawns still weirder flights of fancy. Lewis Carroll’s twin children’s fantasies, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There have both inspired a string of adaptations, artistic and musical responses down the generations.

Now, as the Victoria & Albert Museum prepares to celebrate Alice and her cultural influence in Curiouser & Curiouser, a landmark exhibition next month, a new book containing unseen original images is to expose the secrets behind the darker world of the second Alice story.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

“Together these books are really the first psychedelic texts and I like them because there’s no moral lesson. They actually parody authority, like the judiciary and the monarchy, rather than supporting them,” said Jake Fior, an Alice expert and author of Through a Looking Glass Darkly. “Carroll had a definite interest in the esoteric. I have a catalogue of his possessions, including his library, and he had lots of books on the supernatural,” he told the Observer. Fior’s fresh version of Alice’s journey attempts to elaborate and even improve upon Carroll’s difficult follow-up work, 150 years on from its publication.

“If you think about the structure of Through the Looking Glass, it’s very weird and I always felt it could be improved. The idea of going through a mirror into a reflected dimension is fine, but then suddenly there is this Jabberwocky epic poem and the Vorpal sword and these mythical beasts which are never mentioned again. It is framed as a chess game in which Alice goes from pawn to queen in eight chapters, but it doesn’t run in a fluid way like Wonderland. It is a more flawed book, yet some of the moments are better, so I kept those in my version.” During the author’s research for his new approach to the story he discovered images that will now go on public display for the first time in the V&A show.

Fior, who is the proprietor of the Alice through the Looking Glass shop in the West End of London, was already the owner of several original pieces of Carroll memorabilia when he came across a sketch book that had belonged to Carroll’s famous original illustrator, Sir John Tenniel.

“It shouldn’t have been there, but I was at a rare book fair three summers ago and there it was, nondescript, with just the word ‘costume’ written on the front,” remembered Fior. As a student Tenniel used to skip his classes at the Royal Academy of Art and take his sketch books to the British Museum instead. This book was full of studies of armour and knights, prototypes of the images he went on to use in the Alice books.

Fior uses these images in his book just as Carroll used Tenniel’s work: a dynamic mix of text and illustration, which he believes looks towards the arrival of the graphic novel. Fior’s story tells, in parallel with Alice’s journey, the true story of Samuel Liddell Mathers, a distant relative of the real girl Alice who had inspired Dodgson.

Fior discovered that he had formed the secret magical society known as The Golden Dawn, patronised by major literary figures such as Bram Stoker, E Nesbit and Arthur Conan Doyle, and also by the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley.

“There is no evidence that Carroll was practising magic, but he was interested in telepathy and was a member of the Society of Psychical Research. He also had a well known obsession with wordplay and especially acrostics, and these come from Hebrew mysticism, which he would probably have known,” said Fior.

While working on the book he found that although Carroll was not a Freemason, the Liddell family were very involved in the organisation. The V&A exhibition, Fior suggests, will be a good opportunity for fans to go back to the darker side of the stories, something that the Disney cartoon version has almost obliterated. “The Disney image has become so strong, it has almost effaced Tenniel. But I find the animated visuals a bit saccharine. I always think of the phrase from Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange “weak tea, new brewed” as opposed to the Tenniel which is full strength, with no sugar.”

A Tiny Book Tour at The Museum of Printing | Miniature Books

Visit the Museum of Printing from home!

This virtual mini-tour features the Museum of Printing’s Frank Romano looking at a number of small-sized books, including what might be the smallest book in existence (it’s smaller than a tic-tac!). President Frank Romano shows off the collection of mini books in this video:

Helga Weyhe, Germany’s Oldest Bookseller, Dies at 98

She died above the bookstore, founded in 1840, where she had worked since the waning months of World War II. She locked it up for the last time in December.

BERLIN — After Helga Weyhe locked up her bookstore in the town of Salzwedel, Germany, each evening, she would make her usual commute — a trudge to the apartment upstairs. She had been making the same trip since World War II, just as her father had before then, and as her grandfather had before him.

The H. Weyhe Bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Germany. It was founded in 1840, before Germany was a country. Ms. Weyhe’s grandfather Heinrich Weyhe bought it 31 years later. It endured through World War I, the Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime. Ms. Weyhe took over the store from her father in 1965, four years after East Germany built the Berlin Wall, and guided it through Communist rule and reunification with West Germany.

She locked up for the last time one day in December. She died at 98 sometime before Jan. 4; her body was found in her home, said Ute Lemm, a grandniece.

“With her life, she closed a circle,” Ms. Lemm said. “She died where she was born.”

Helga Weyhe (pronounced VIE-eh) became an anchor in Salzwedel, about 110 miles west of Berlin. The town was in the former East Germany, and during Communist rule she stocked religious books that were unavailable in state-run bookstores, frowned on as they were by the regime. It was a boon to the faithful, and for her a quiet act of defiance.

Ms. Weyhe was a lifeline of sorts to her customers. She traveled far and wide after East Germans were generally allowed to leave for tourism, bringing back her infectious enthusiasm for the outside world. “She brought a little bit of the world to Salzwedel,” Ms. Lemm said. When the Iron Curtain was dissolved and those who had fled to the West returned to Salzwedel, they gathered at her store for readings she had organized.

Helga Weyhe in her bookstore in Salzwedel, Germany, in 2018. Her grandfather bought the store in 1871.Credit…John MacDougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“They had bought their school books at the Weyhes’ when they were kids, and now, when they came back to the city, they were senior citizens,” Steffen Langusch, the town archivist, said. He held long conversations with Ms. Weyhe about local history in her office at the back of the store, amid piles of books and black and white photographs chronicling the store’s past.

Bookstores hold a special place for many Germans. During the pandemic lockdown, some were classified as “essential” businesses; the country’s 3,500 small, independent booksellers (compared with 2,500 in the United States) have been buoyed by a law that fixes book prices, preventing the small shops from being undercut by large chains and Amazon.

Ms. Weyhe in 2012 was the first resident after reunification to be formally honored by the town, the equivalent of receiving a key to the city, and in 2017 she received a special national prize for her bookstore.

“She wasn’t just an honorary citizen,” the town’s mayor, Sabine Blümel, said. “She was an institution.”

The store’s interior, with its well-stocked wooden shelves and display tables, has not changed much since Ms. Weyhe’s grandfather renovated it around 1880. Ms. Weyhe printed out quotations and poems and stuck them to the shop windows for the benefit of passers-by.

She took pride in stocking only books that she knew and approved of, although she would order customers almost anything online from her suppliers.

As she told interviewers over the years, one of her favorites was a 1932 children’s book by Erika Mann, Thomas Mann’s daughter, called “Stoffel Flies Over the Sea,” about a boy who tries to visit his uncle in America by hiding in a zeppelin.

“It was probably the last bookstore in Germany where you could always buy a copy of that book,” Mr. Langusch said.

The book’s plot appealed to her personally. Ms. Weyhe’s Uncle Erhard lived in Manhattan and ran his own bookstore, at 794 Lexington Avenue, near East 61st Street. His obituary in The New York Times in 1972 described him as “one of the last of the great art book dealers.” An old sign with the Lexington Avenue address hung on one of the shelves in Ms. Weyhe’s bookstore.

“Since she was a little girl, she dreamed of going to the States, but she had to wait her entire adult life until she was retirement age,” in the 1980s, said her grandniece Ms. Lemm, the artistic director of a theater.

Helga Weyhe was born on Dec. 11, 1922, to Walter and Elsa (Banse) Weyhe. Her mother also worked in the store. She graduated from high school in 1941 and was the first woman, and only the second person, in her family to attend university, studying German and history at institutions in Vienna and what was then Königsberg and Breslau.

With the war cutting short her studies, she went to work at the bookstore in 1944.

Ms. Weyhe never married and left no immediate survivors. Her extended family is hoping to find a new manager for the bookstore.

ORIGINAL POST CREDIT: Christopher F. Schuetze | NY TIMES

Antique Illustrated Book: The Pilgrim’s Progress (early 1900s)

  • Title: The Pilgrim’s Progress, with illustrations in color
  • Author: John Bunyan
  • Publisher: Gilbert H. McKibbin, New York
  • Publication Date: No date – Circa 1900
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Book Condition: Good, some wear to covers

192 pages. Cloth embossed binding with 28 color illustrated plates.

The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come is a 1678 Christian allegory written by John Bunyan. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious, theological fiction in English literature. It has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print..

#books #antique #parable #illustrated #historical #allegory

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – Vintage Pocket Books Edition Illustrated by Gordon Ross

  • Title: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
  • Author: Omar Khayyam, illustrated by Gordon Ross
  • Publisher: Pocket Books, NY
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Size (approx. width x height): 4.25 x 6.50 inches
  • Copyright Year: 1941
  • Edition: 1948 4th Printing
  • Book Condition: Very good, no spine creasing, some minor edge wear and page tanning from age.

Fully illustrated by Gordon Ross. 178 pages. No markings or previous owner notations!!

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is said to be one of the ten best known poems in the world, and probably the most popular piece of Oriental literature in the Western World.

#book #vintage #poetry #illustration #rubaiyat #Persia #Persian

Mid Century Catholic Sunday Missal

Vintage mid century Catholic Missal with Latin, larger type Edition, pocket-size.

My Sunday Missal Rev. Joseph F. Stedman, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, New York, 1944. Mass Calendar dates starting with January 1956.


This is a pocket edition and is a paperback “leatherette style”. Covers ARE NOT LEATHER.

Latin to English version; complete Pulpit text of all Epistles and Gospels as read from the pulpit. Book measures approx 5″ x 3 1/8″

Religious artifacts from the past are a neat time capsule – buy it because it’s like your Grandma’s or if you decorate Midcentury Modern style, it’s age-appropriate for your bookshelf or coffee table.


#midcenturymodern #catholic #liturgical #missal #vintage

Finding Halloween in the Archives

The month of October, marked by grey rainy days and bright orange and red foliage certainly has me feeling a bit spooky. While Halloween as we know it is generally a twentieth-century phenomenon, New England has a long history of superstitions and ghost stories. We all know the gothic tales of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Washington Irving but there are some lesser-known American ghost stories hiding in the stacks at the American Antiquarian Society and I made it my personal goal to find them. After browsing the shelves, I found that AAS has a whole collection of material about witchcraft, superstition, and the occult. Here is a glimpse of what I found.

The Haunted Schoolhouse at Newburyport, a pamphlet produced by Loring publishers of Boston in 1873, tells the story of some peculiar happenings at a one room schoolhouse in Newburyport, MA. Students and teachers alike began to notice rapping, strange lights, and bells ringing when no one was around. “At times the whole school-room has been illuminated, while the school has been in session, by a strong, yellow glow, which on dark days has proceeded from the entry and entered through the partition window.”

According to the story, a student and teacher finally meet the ghost responsible, possibly a former student at the school: “The figure was that of a boy of thirteen. The visage was remarkably pale, the eyes were blue, the mouth sad, and the whole effect was that of extreme melancholy. The general picture was that of a child prepared for burial and prepared, moreover, in a poor and makeshift way.”

Were these happenings the handy work of a mischievous young boy? A student was rumored to have taken credit for the hoax some years later but the story leaves the ending to the reader’s imagination so we may never know.

Another good find, Remarkable Apparitions and Ghost Stories or Authentic Histories of Communications (Real or Imaginary) with The Unseen World, a collection of stories compiled by Clarence S. Day in 1848, is not only full of chilling old fashioned ghost stories but also includes some terrifying images. Day introduces the book saying, “If any one doubts that telling ghost-stories is the proper employment for a winter’s night, let him open his window and look out. Can anything be more spectral? There is not a hill or a hollow in sight but has put on a shroud, and stares at him with a still, white face, the phantom of itself. The trees stand like giant skeletons, lifting their bleached arms toward the trooping clouds that hurry across the sky, like witches flocking to their sabbath. What is all that but a ghost-story in dumb-show, told by the earth to the stars?”

The Haunted Schoolhouse at Newburyport, a pamphlet produced by Loring publishers of Boston in 1873, tells the story of some peculiar happenings at a one room schoolhouse in Newburyport, MA. Students and teachers alike began to notice rapping, strange lights, and bells ringing when no one was around. “At times the whole school-room has been illuminated, while the school has been in session, by a strong, yellow glow, which on dark days has proceeded from the entry and entered through the partition window.”

According to the story, a student and teacher finally meet the ghost responsible, possibly a former student at the school: “The figure was that of a boy of thirteen. The visage was remarkably pale, the eyes were blue, the mouth sad, and the whole effect was that of extreme melancholy. The general picture was that of a child prepared for burial and prepared, moreover, in a poor and makeshift way.”

Were these happenings the handy work of a mischievous young boy? A student was rumored to have taken credit for the hoax some years later but the story leaves the ending to the reader’s imagination so we may never know.

Another good find, Remarkable Apparitions and Ghost Stories or Authentic Histories of Communications (Real or Imaginary) with The Unseen World, a collection of stories compiled by Clarence S. Day in 1848, is not only full of chilling old fashioned ghost stories but also includes some terrifying images. Day introduces the book saying, “If any one doubts that telling ghost-stories is the proper employment for a winter’s night, let him open his window and look out. Can anything be more spectral? There is not a hill or a hollow in sight but has put on a shroud, and stares at him with a still, white face, the phantom of itself. The trees stand like giant skeletons, lifting their bleached arms toward the trooping clouds that hurry across the sky, like witches flocking to their sabbath. What is all that but a ghost-story in dumb-show, told by the earth to the stars?”

Original Post: Past is Present – The American Antiquarian Society blog, Oct 2012

WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A LIBRARY CAT DURING THE PANDEMIC

Library Cats are still working!

By lsimon on August 24, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries across the country have closed their doors to the public—but what has that meant for the cats who call America’s libraries home?

Libraries have long been home to feline residents who keep patrons company, promote activities and programs, and assist with pest control. We checked in on four library cats (and their humans) to see how their lifestyles have changed during the pandemic

A grey cat sitting among library bookstacks

Browser from Texas’s White Settlement Public Library may be one of the nation’s most famous library cats. In a viral story from 2016, a city council member tried to oust Browser from his position at the library; after a public outcry, Browser was reinstated for life while his political opponent lost his reelection campaign.

Browser has stuck around the library during the pandemic closure but seems to be missing the crowds.

“He is generally quite independent, but since the closure he always wants to be near people. We can usually find him in the lap of a staff member, or lying helpfully on their keyboard,” library staffer Kathryn King told I Love Libraries. “Now that we are offering curbside service, he posts himself at the window during curbside hours to watch the patrons come and go.”

See more library cat photos and read the full article! Original post here: http://www.ilovelibraries.org/article/what-it’s-be-library-cat-during-pandemic

Create a Miniature Adventure – a Creative Bookish Activity

A tiny book being held in an adult's hands

Make like “The Borrowers” and create a tiny adventure where you’re the star! This creative activity is perfect for families to do on a walk, or in your local park or garden.

  • Imagine what it would be like to be the size of your thumb!
  • Think of a simple story about your adventures at home or in your school or outdoors.
  • Draw a story board for your adventure.
  • Create a mini you.
  • Cut out your figures.
  • Time for the adventure!
  • Turn your adventure into a book.
  • and more neat ideas / concepts for you to try at home

Step-by-step inspiration and illustrations for this activity can be found here, courtesy of The British Library:

Rare Book Collector Reveals Tibetan Book Printed Before the Gutenberg Bible

Pages from A Tibetan Buddhist Text Circa 1410

The Gutenberg Printing Press truly revolutionized western society with its introduction of mass produced printed materials for a relatively cheap price, which helped encourage literacy among the lower classes. However, the practice of printing books had actually been occurring long before 1450 in the Far East. A rare book collector on Twitter recently debuted a Sino-Tibetan “concertina-folded book” that is estimated to have been printed in Beijing around 1410. This beautifully preserved book of Buddhist recitations was created about 40 years before the Gutenberg Bible entered circulation.

Twitter user Incunabula explains that the book contains “Sanskrit dhāranīs and illustrations of protective mantra-diagrams and deities” and its inner pages of bright red ink are protected by black outer coverings which feature 20 icons of gold painted Tathāgatas—a Sanskrit name for Buddha. The text was designed for both European and Asian readers in mind. According to Incunabula: “The book may be read in the Indo-Tibetan manner by turning the pages from right to left or in Chinese style by turning from left to right.”

See more images and read the rest of the article here>>

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A Movie for Bibliophiles, Finally!

Antiquarian booksellers are part scholar, part detective and part businessperson, and their personalities and knowledge are as broad as the material they handle. They also play an underappreciated yet essential role in preserving history.

THE BOOKSELLERS takes viewers inside their small but fascinating world, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics and dreamers.

In Theaters March 6, 2020

Director: D.W. Young

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