Alice in Blue
Why is my project called "Alice in Blue"?
For this research project, I instantly knew I'd be doing a book on Alice in Wonderland. But it's one of the most well-known books in the world and UBC has its own collection called the Alice 100 Collection. Therefore, I had to figure out how to narrow my interests down. I thought about marginalia, which are marks and notes made inside a book. So I asked if there were any Alice books that had marginalia and this book in the collection was recommended to me: Alice 469, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland : With eight coloured plates and one hundred and twelve other illustrations by Charles Robinson.
The reason Alice 469 was suggested is this: "The only Alice book I can think of off the top of my head with ownership marks is one where the illustrations were clearly coloured in by a former kid owner, but this might not be of interest."
This is a sortable and collapsible table for the various colouring of the child owner. Overall, Alice appears blonde 13 times and brunette 9 times, and is most often in a blue dress, at 8 times. In summary, here are the most common dress-hair combinations:
And here is the raw data:
|000||blue||(2nd page of intro poem)|
|015||red||red||red||collar - orange|
|030||purple||collar - green|
|034||red||yellow||face - red|
|046||orange||brown||orange||face - red cheeks|
|055||blue||yellow||blue||blue||face - red cheeks|
|061||brown||face - red cheeks|
|067||yellow||yellow||yellow||face - red cheeks, blue eyes|
|071||purple||brown||face - red cheeks|
|083||black||black||red||face - red cheeks|
|089||green||yellow||face - red cheeks|
|095||red||red||face - red|
|103||red||brown||green||green||collar - red; face - red cheeks|
|117||green||yellow||face - red cheeks|
|125||blue||yellow||red||yellow||face - red cheeks, blue eyes|
|127||purple||brown||face - red cheeks, blue eyes; blue sleeves|
|141||red||brown||face - red cheeks|
|166||blue||brown||face - red|
|167||orange||brown||orange||orange||face - red cheeks; blue collar|
|176||orange||yellow||face - red cheeks; (not Alice, but older sister)|
|179||blue||yellow||orange||face - red cheeks; yellow collar|
Why those colours?
Rather than coloured-in illustrations not being of interest, on the contrary, it helped me narrow down my focus. It was here that I decided to focus on the colour of Alice's hair and dresses in the book's illustations, the colours that the child owner chose to fill in with, and suggesting possible rationale for why such colours were chosen.
This is why my project is called Alice in Blue.
A Blonde in Blue
Internet search results for "Alice in Wonderland dress" and "Alice in Wonderland costume" usually result with blondes in dresses and costumes of blue and white. The 1951 film by Disney features Alice as a blonde in blue and this most likely cemented this look.
However, the 1907 book, nor the child owner, could have possibly been influenced by the 1951 movie. Therefore, I had to find possible influences pre-1907 which could have influenced the child owner.
To begin with the hair colour of Alice, let's look at the real girl who inspired Alice.
Alice Liddell, in real-life, was a dark brunette and Lewis Carroll made an illustration of real-life Alice based on a photograph. However, when Carroll drew Alice for the other illustrations, her hair was not as dark and was not filled in. Considering how meticulous Lewis Carrol was when he made his manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1864), the fact that he didn't make the fictional Alice's hair dark and filled in, it is possible that he imagined the fictional Alice as a blonde or, at least, with lighter coloured hair than the real Alice.
Therefore, I support that, apart from the illustrated "photograph", Carroll's fictional Alice was a blonde.
Next, let's look at the original black-and-white Tenniel illustrations from the 1865 book.
Lewis Carroll sent John Tenniel, his illustrator, pictures of two child models to inspire the illustrations for the published novel. The child models might be blondes and they might look like fictional Alice but there is very little indisputable evidence that they affected Tenniel's illustrations. In fact, in a letter to Gertrude Thomson, Lewis Carroll said this: "Mr. Tenniel is the only artist, who has drawn for me, who resolutely refused to use a model, and declared he has no more needed one than I should need a multiplication-table to work on a mathematical problem." (31 March 1892).
In the end, Lewis Carroll approved each of the illustrations and, based upon the hair not being very dark or not being filled in, it seems like Tenniel's Alice is also blonde.
The first coloured versions of Alice's dress was not in books, but in products and merchandise. There were many different kinds "magic lantern slides" based upon the Tenniel drawings, but altered slightly so that it didn't break copyright. A "magic lantern" is an early kind of image projector that used slides and a light source.
1890 The Nursery Alice
The first official coloured illustrations of Alice is from the The Nursery Alice (1890) and note that fictional Alice is a blonde. The illustrations are from the original book coloured, enlarged and, in some cases, revised. Here, Alice's dress colour was originally yellow.
After the The Nursery Alice, other publishers and books made different colours for Alice's dresses, mostly blue and red. Although it wouldn't have affected the child's colouring, In 1911, Macmillan released another book with Alice in a blue dress and this was mostly where Alice in blue was solidified.
Little Folks, 1903
Considering that the person who coloured in the book really had a preference for a blonde Alice, even when the opposing picture was a brunette, I think the child was probably blonde. For the serpent picture, even though the neck is the same purple colour, a decision was made to make the hair blonde. Although blonde fictional Alice did exist pre-1907, the child would have had to see those books to be influenced by them, and if the 1907 version was their first Alice book then those wouldn't have been influential.
As for dress colour, I think the child was simply experimenting with different colours. If the child had seen other versions of the books, then the child was doing the very same experimenting with colour that various publishers were doing.
- You can view it here: https://archive.org/details/turesalicesadven00carrrich
- See Mark Burstein, p. 27.
- The National Media Museum, Bradford. http://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects/co8228676/scene-from-alices-adventures-or-the-queen-of-hearts-and-the-stolen-tarts-magic-lantern-slide
- University of Exeter. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10472/4381
- See Mark Burstein, p. 28-30, and http://aliceinwonderland150.com/
- These two spread are from Phantomwise
- Burstein, Mark. “Am I Blue?” Knight Letter II.15 (Winter 2010): 27-30. Knight Letter. The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Web. 15 April 2018. https://archive.org/details/knightletterno8515lewi
All of these websites contains listing of different illustrators for Alice in Wonderland.
- Lauren Harman.
- Does not seem to exist now, but can be seen via Internet Archive's Wayback Machine
- Lewis Carroll - illustrating Alice in Wonderland 1899 - 1929
- Illustrators of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
- Lauren Millikan
- Alice's Illustrated Adventures In Wonderland
- The story of Alice in Wonderland with pictures from different illustrators for different parts.
- 1892 Looking-Glass biscuit tin (Alice as a blonde in a blue dress)