Front cover of a copy of The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition.

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition (ISBN 978-0-393-04847-6) is a book by the American writer Martin Gardner. It was first published in 1999 and includes the complete text of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass with original Tenniel illustrations, numerous annotations, references, and other material of interest to adult readers of the Alice books.

Gardner's first edition of The Annotated Alice (1960) was one of the most famous and best-selling annotated books of all time. His second edition, More Annotated Alice (1990), contained new notes, substituted Peter Newell's illustrations, and included "The Wasp in a Wig," a long-lost episode of Through the Looking-Glass discovered in 1974.

The Definitive Edition includes introductions and notes from the two previous editions, many new annotations, high-quality reproductions of Tenniel's illustrations, "The Wasp in a Wig," and other supplementary material.


Preface to The Definitive Edition

Introduction to The Annotated Alice

The extensive introduction to the original edition includes Gardner's explanation of his approach to annotating the Alice books as well as an essay on Carroll; what is known of his personality, interests, and his fixation on little girls - especially Alice Liddell.

Introduction to More Annotated Alice

The introduction to the second edition describes how interest in Carroll had grown since the publication of the original edition, how letters from readers led to the new edition, and how "The Wasp in a Wig" came to be. There are also new insights into Carroll's feelings towards little girls.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Complete text, including the prefatory verse and Tenniel's illustrations, accompanied by 125 notes.

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

Complete text, including the prefatory and terminal verses and Tenniel's illustrations, accompanied by 203 notes.

"The Wasp in a Wig"

With Gardner's introduction and 18 notes as originally published by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America in 1977. The preface describes the discovery and history of the "suppressed" episode and also includes a reproduction of Tenniel's letter to Carroll recommending the removal of the episode. In the introduction, Gardner explains where the episode belongs in the book, reviews the episode, and discusses various theories regarding the wig.

Original Pencil Sketches by Tenniel

A Note about Lewis Carroll Societies

Selected References

Alice on the Screen, by David Schaefer (listing of Alice-related films)


In the introduction to the first edition, Gardner states that he avoided two types of notes in annotating the Alice books; allegorical and psychoanalytic interpretations. Rather than provide a deep analysis or unearth hidden symbolisms, Gardner's annotations clarify the text and explain points that would otherwise be missed by modern readers.

The notes range from the brief ("Murdering the time: Mangling the song’s meter") to the essay-like (such as a lengthy piece on the history and influences of "Jabberwocky").

Some common types of annotations are:

Victorian references

Explanations of references that would have been common knowledge at the time, including:
  • original poems being parodied
  • parlor games popular at the time
  • customs and common practices - such as the habit of the aristocracy to offer only fingers when shaking hands with the lower class (which explains why Humpty Dumpty offers only one finger to Alice)

Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell references

Notes on Carroll himself and Alice Liddell, as well as their private references:
  • Carroll's interest in psychical research, inventing new games, etc.
  • private jokes - the "three little sisters" in the story told by the Doormouse, for example, is a pun for "three Liddell sisters" (Liddell rhymes with fiddle)

Mathematical, logical, and scientific notes

Martin Gardner shared Carroll’s interests in recreational mathematics and logic. Topics discussed include:
  • why Alice would never get to 20 following her mixed-up multiplication table (4x5=12, 4x6=13 …)
  • scientific answer to Alice's question of whether looking-glass milk would be good to drink
  • logical analysis of the naming of the White Knight's song "A-Sitting on a Gate" which is called “Ways and Means” whose name is called “Haddocks' Eyes”

Comments on Tenniel's illustrations

There are many notes regarding the original illustrations:
  • discussions on possible influences and source material
  • details which may be missed - such as Tenniel's reversed monogram in the picture of Alice entering the Looking-Glass house through the mirror

Other annotations include:

  • notes on the Looking-Glass chess game, pointing out movements of Alice and other characters as chess pieces
  • comments on puns and other word play
  • notes for the non-British
  • reports on fans' favorite activities (ex. making up answers to Mad Hatter's unanswered riddle, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?")

See also

External links

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