Lewis Carroll Exhibit

Jan 27, 2010

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showcases Lewis Carroll materials in a special exhibition opening February 2 and running through March 5, 2010.  Curiouser and Curiouser: The Games and Mind Games of Lewis Carroll includes games, puzzles, and many curious aspects of the author of the beloved classic Alice in Wonderland.

The exhibition, named in honor of Alice’s exclamation as she tumbles down a rabbit hole into a world where animals pose riddles and play croquet and decks of cards come to life, is drawn largely from the Flodden Heron Collection of Lewis Carroll materials in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  Flodden W. Heron was an American bibliographer and collector of rare materials on Lewis Carroll. While this exhibition primarily coheres around Carroll’s fascination with puzzles and games, the items also reflect Heron’s own interests in the author, particularly Carroll’s penchant for play and the nature of his relationship with Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the little girl for whom Alice in Wonderland was first written and dedicated. 

Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) is better known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll. In addition to being a professor and writer, he adapted rules for games, including backgammon, tennis, and croquet, and invented others.  The University of Illinois owns Carroll’s own chess and backgammon board—two pastimes he combined into an entirely original game called "Lanrick.”& #160; Carroll preferred games of skill and logic over those of chance.  His games sought to instruct, but never at the expense of amusement.

The Curiouser and Curiouser exhibition includes special “game tables” where visitors can try some of Carroll’s puzzles and games, including Lanrick.  Exhibition visitors can also try “ mirror writing”—one of Carroll’s favorite forms of correspondence.  Children are encouraged to attend the five-week exhibition. 

The exhibition is curated by graduate students from the Department of English and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  These curators are available for 30 to 60-minute school visits to introduce and share the games of Lewis Carroll with K-12 students.

Curiouser and Curiouser: The Games and Mind Games of Lewis Carroll is funded by a gift from Library Friend, Jean McConochie of New York, New York.  Her support also allowed for the archival processing of the collection.   

The exhibition concludes on March 5 with a Mad Hatter Tea Party for Young People.  The party coincides with the release of Tim Burton’s film Alice in Wonderland.

Do you have a story you'd like added to the Library News & Events? If so, please contact Heather Murphy (hmurphy@illinois.edu).