Picture origins

Lewis Carroll is not the only one who based his work on elements out of his environment. Sir John Tenniel was an experienced illustrator and obviously had his own style. Therefore, it is no surprise that some of the characters he drew for “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” bear clear resemblance to his earlier work, for example his illustrations for the magazine “Punch”. Also, he may have purposely added some references to well-known people and aspects of his society into his illustrations – on request of Lewis Carroll or on his own initiative.

Note that mistakes in Tenniel’s illustrations are described elsewhere on this site.

`Now I declare that’s too bad!’ Humpty Dumpty cried, breaking into a sudden passion. `You’ve been listening at doors — and behind trees — and down chimneys — or you couldn’t have known it!’
`I haven’t, indeed!’ Alice said very gently. `It’s in a book.’
`Ah, well! They may write such things in a book,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a calmer tone. `That’s what you call a History of England, that is.

Earlier work

Not all illustrations have deeper meanings. However, it is still possible to trace some of their origins, as Tenniel had a distinct way of drawing certain animals and people. That is why we can find many resemblances to the illustrations he did for the ‘Alice’ books in his earlier works. We can even find other “Alice’s” before the Alice in Wonderland books were published! Here are some examples of Tenniel’s earlier illustrations, in which we can clearly see characters that also appear in his illustrations for Carroll’s books.

John Tenniel - The British lion and the Scottish unicorn, Punch, January-June 1853 John Tenniel - "The Gigantic Gooseberry.", Punch, 15 July 1871John Tenniel - Alice figure garlanding the British lion, Punch, January-June 1864

Even though John Tenniel took pride in the fact that he was usually able to draw accurate illustrations by head, without having to study objects or use models, he must have sometimes consulted other sources. Look at this hedgehog from Thomas Bewick from “A General History of Quadrupets” (1790) – it is almost certain that Tenniel consulted this illustration when he drew the illustration of Alice with a flamingo and hedgehog.


For the above examples and many, many more, read Michael Hancher’s excellent “The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books”.


Picture of Mary Hilton BadcockAlice Liddell was not the Alice of Tenniel’s pictures. Carroll supposedly sent Tenniel a photograph of Mary Hilton Badcock, another child-friend, who was the daughter of the Dean of Ripon, and recommended her as a model. However, whether he actually did that is debatable, especially because by the time Carroll was supposed to have acquired the photograph of her, Tenniel and Dalziel had already completed several engravings.

The following lines from a letter Carroll wrote some time after the Alice books had been published, suggest that Tenniel probably did not use a model at all:

“Mr. Tenniel is the only artist, who has drawn for me, who has resolutely refused to use a model, and declared he no more needed one than I should need a multiplication table to work a mathematical problem! I venture to think that he was mistaken and that for want of a model, he drew several pictures of “Alice” entirely out of proportion – head decidedly too large and feet decidedly too small.”

Lewis Carroll wanted to keep Alice fashionable. That is why her dress changes, when you compare the illustrations of her in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, “Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there”, and “The Nursery Alice”. For example, the pleats in the skirt she wears in “The Nursery Alice” where highly fashionable in 1886, when the book was supposed to come out. (Unfortunately, it was already out of fashion when the book was actually published in 1889). (source: Kiera Vaclavik, presentation during the ‘Alice 150’ conference, New York, 9 October 2015)

However, Carroll hated crinoline fashion. Therefore he objected to several pictures drawn by Tenniel, in which Alice was wearing a crinoline skirt after she became a queen. Tenniel redrew the illustrations. Here you can see a ‘before’ and ‘after’ illustration. (source: Justin Schiller and Selwyn Goodacre, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: An 1865 Printing Redescribed”, The Jabberwock, 1990) 


As the original illustrations were black and white, Alice’s dress had no color. Nowadays we often imagine the dress to be blue, but this is mainly thanks to Disney’s 1951 cartoon movie.

The first colored images of Alice and her dress did not appear in books, but on merchandise products. For example, this music cover for ‘The Wonderland Quadrilles’, published around 1872, shows Alice in a red dress. This illustration was drawn by John Tenniel and approved by Lewis Carroll.

Cover of 'the Wonderland Quadrilles'

In 1887, Alice also appeared with a red dress on the front cover of the People’s Edition of the book (that had black and white illustrations inside).

This first colored illustrations appear in the Nursery Alice (1889). These were redrawn and enlarged by Tenniel, and approved by Carroll. In these, Alice’s dress is yellow.

The same year, Carroll designed a ‘Wonderland postage-stamp case’. This also featured an image of Alice in a yellow dress. The same goes for the De La Rue card game (1894).

Cover of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland postage stamp case De La Rue card game

The first time we see Alice in a blue dress, is in Thomas Crowell’s American 1893 edition, that has one color frontispiece:

Frontispiece of the Thomas Crowell edition from 1893

In Macmillan’s 1903 “The Little Folks’ Editions” of both “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”, Alice’s dress is also blue. In their 1907 edition, however, her dress is red again.

Illustration of Alice in a blue dress from the 1903 Little Folks' Edition Illustration of Alice in a blue dress from the 1907 Little Folks' Edition

(source: Aliceinwonderland150.comAlicenations.blogspot.nl, and “Am I blue?”, Mark Burstein, Knight Letter, Winter 2010, Volume II issue 15, nr. 85)

Many other variations on Tenniel’s illustrations have followed ever since. But Tenniel never colored her dress blue.

Alice was depicted with blonde hair since the very beginning, even though Alice Liddell was a brunette.

The puppy

Tenniel did not just draw a random dog. His rendition of the puppy is a Norfolk Terrier. (source: Gardner, M. and M. Burstein, “The Annotated Alice. 150th anniversary deluxe edition”, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2015. image: Bob Langrish, Alamy Stock Photo)

Norfolk Terrier

The Mad Hatter

Carroll might have suggested that Tenniel should draw the Mad Hatter to resemble Theophilus Carter, a furniture dealer near Oxford.

Carter was known in the area as the Mad Hatter, partly because he always wore a top hat and partly because of his eccentric ideas. He invented for example an ‘alarm clock bed’, which woke the sleeper by tossing him out. Perhaps this is why Carroll’s hatter is so concerned with the time and arousing the sleepy Dormouse? (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.93)

However, according to Oxford local historian Mark Davies there is hardly any reason why the Hatter should be based on Carter. He thinks is more likely that the Hatter is Thomas Randall, a local tailor who referred to himself as ‘a hatter’. Alice Liddell knew him and sometimes took his retriever Rover out for a walk.

It is also often suggested that Tenniel made the Mad Hatter resemble the politician Disraeli. There is not much proof for this claim, however if you compare a picture of Disraeli that appeared in Vanity Fair, with the illustration of the Hatter, similarities can be seen:

Fragment of a drawing of Disraeli in Vanity Fair mad-hatter

Left: Disraeli in Vanity Fair, by Carlo Pellegrini. Right: Tenniel’s Mad Hatter

Still, the Hatter does not resemble most Disraeli caricatures drawn by Tenniel.

The March Hare

Tenniel drew the March Hare with straw on his head. At Carroll’s time, this was a symbol of madness. He refers to it in his ‘Nursery Alice’: “That’s the March Hare, with the long ears, and straws mixed up with his hair. The straws showed he was mad-I don’t know why.”

The Duchess

Tenniel's duchessOne of the few instances where Tenniel’s illustrations deviate from Carroll’s textual descriptions, is the illustration of the Duchess. According to the text, the Duchess has a very “sharp little chin”. This, however, is not to be seen in Tenniel’s visualisation of her.

The portrait of ‘A Grotesque Old Woman’ (1513), painted by the Flemish Renaissance painter Quintin Massys, or a very similar drawing like Francisco Melzi’s (1510-20), could have served as a model for Tenniel’s Duchess.

The ‘Ugly Duchess’ on the painting is supposed to be Margaretha ‘Maultasch’, a fourteenth-century duchess of Tyrol and princess of Carinthia. She had the reputation of being the ugliest woman in history. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.82 and Stoffell, S. Lovett, Lewis Carroll in Wonderland. The life and times of Alice and her creator, 1997, p.76)

We don’t know how well the painting (or drawing) resembles the real duchess, because it was painted 200 years after her death. It may be that she was not actually ugly, but that this was a wrong interpretation of the artist, by taking her nickname too literally (‘maultasch’ translates as ‘pocket-mouth’). According to the German Wikipedia page, ‘Maultasch’ meant ‘slut’. William A. Baillie-Grohman (“The Land in the Mountains”, 1907) claims that it means ‘a box on the ears’ – alluding to a family incident of the Duchess with political consequences. If the latter is true, it could explain why the Duchess in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is under sentence of execution for ‘boxing the Queen’s ears’…

'A Grotesque Old Woman' by Quintin Massys drawing by Francisco Melzi, after Leonardo da Vinci

The ape in the pool of tears

“They were indeed a queer-looking party that assembled on the bank–the birds with draggled feathers, the animals with their fur clinging close to them, and all dripping wet, cross, and uncomfortable.”

When we take a good look at Tenniel’s drawings of the animals from the pool of tears, we can see that the party mainly consist of birds, and some other animals that are used to living near the water (crabs and a beaver). The most remarkable animal in the party is the ape, who is present in both illustrations. It is often said that this ape is a reference to Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ (1859).

Dodgson started to write ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ only three years after Darwin had published his book. Dodgson was aware of the implications of Darwin’s work, and owned several books by Darwin and his followers. Perhaps Dodgson introduced the ape as a sly comment on the controversy surrounding the evolution theory. After all, in this scene these creatures emerged from the water and came to land. In any way, it must have been Dodgson’s idea, not Tenniel’s, as the ape was already present in Dodgson’s own drawing for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.

The ape is not mentioned in the text about the pool of tears. However, David Lockwood suggests that the ape is Pat, the White Rabbit’s servant. Judging by his language (“Sure then I’m here! Digging for apples, yer honour” / “Sure, it’s an arm, yer honour!’ (He pronounced it ‘arrum.’)”), Pat is Irish. Furthermore, ‘Irish apple’ is a slang term for ‘potato’ (although apparently the expression was only used by English people). Many cartoons of the Victorian period depict Irishmen as ape-like creatures. In ‘Punch’ cartoons of the mid to late nineteenth century, the Irish worker is nearly always represented with a bestial jaw and beetling brows, and is invariably named ‘Pat’ or ‘Paddy’.
(Source: Lockwood, D., ‘Pictorial Puzzles from Alice’, The Carrolian, no. 14, autumn 2004)

The dodo

Painting of a dodoTenniel's illustration of the DodoIn the University Museum in Oxford you can find this painting of the Dodo (1651) by Jan Savery and the remains of a dodo. Both these provided inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice Liddell liked to visit the Museum.

Father William

The illustrations of Father William may be based on Benjamin Jowett, an Oxford professor who taught Greek at Christ Church (source: David Day, “Alice’s Adventures Decoded”). Father William’s strange activities that are described in the poem, may also refer to his attempts at reformations (source: Jo Elwyn Jones and J. Francis Gladstone, “The Alice Companion”).

Father William (by John Tenniel) versus Benjamin Jowett (photo by Charles Dodgson)

Father William (by John Tenniel) versus Benjamin Jowett (photo by Charles Dodgson)

The Caterpillar

When you take a close look at the picture of the Caterpillar, you’ll see that his nose and chin are really two of its legs!

Father William and the eel

In the backgroud of the illustration of father William balancing an eel on his nose, you can see a bridge-like construction. This is an eel trap, which is built across rivers and traps eels through conical baskets with small openings. (source: Benham, Philip, in: “Jabberwocky”, winter 1970)

Father William & son 4

The Mock Turtle

The Mock Turtle is a reference to green turtle soup, usually made from veal. This is why Tenniel drew his Mock Turtle with the head, hind hoofs, and tail of a calf. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.124)

The King and Queen of Hearts

It is interesting to note that Tenniel drew all playing card characters to resemble their paper equivalents, except for the Queen of Hearts – her dress resembles that of the Queen of Spades playing card (from the 1840’s De La Rue pack)! (source: Michael Hancher, “The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books”, 1985) 

Queen of Hearts shouting at Alice

Court figures on De La Rue playing card deck, 1840's

image courtesy of Ken Lodge

It is unknown why he made that decision, or whether it perhaps was just a mistake.

The same goes for the King of Hearts: although he is wearing the ‘correct’ outfit in Tenniel’s illustration, Tenniel drew him with a moustache. The King of Hearts on the original playing card did not have one (while all three other kings had). (source: Howard Chang, “Annotating Alice for Chinese Readers”)

The Knave of Hearts

Tenniel shaded the nose of the Knave of Hearts on trial. This was a convention among cartoonists to suggest that the portrayed person is a drunk. Victorians thought of criminals as heavy drinkers. Tenniel also darkened the noses of the Duchess and the Queen of Hearts(source: Martin Gardner, “The annotated Alice – 150th anniversary deluxe edition”, p.145)

Michael Hancher (The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books, 1985) suggests another theory: he claims that the shaded noses are an indication of guilt. As the stolen tarts are made of “pepper, mostly”, anyone who comes in contact with them gets a red nose (because of the sneezing). This would also explain the noses of the Duchess and Queen.

In the picture where the Queen points at Alice, the Knave carries a crown on a pillow. In case you wonder why: from the 18th century on, it was standard to depict this crown (which is St. Edward’s crown, the state crown of England) on ace of spades playing cards, so it would be familiar for Victorian readers. (Michael Hancher, The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books, 1985)

J. Tufail claimed that the Knave of Hearts is actually the Knave of Clubs, because the symbols on his tunic are clubs in stead of hearts. But if you look at the playing cards from the De La Rue deck above, you can see that the clover motif actually appears on the Knave of Hearts playing card.

Alice going through the Looking Glass

There are two pictures of Alice crawling through the mirror on the chimney-piece. In the second picture everything is reversed. Tenniel even reversed his monogram!

The Old Sheep Shop

Alice and the sheep in the shopIn ‘Through the Looking Glass’ Alice meets an old, knitting sheep in a shop. In the photograph you can see the actual shop in Oxford on which that part was based.

In Carroll’s time, it was a candy shop and Alice often went there to buy her favorite sweets. The woman who owned the shop at the time was old, had a very bleaty voice and was always knitting. That’s why Carroll changed her into a knitting sheep. As the book was about a land behind the mirror, Tenniel’s picture is a mirror image of the real shop.

Nowadays it is a souvenir shop, where you can buy lots of Alice in Wonderland things. You can find it at 83 Saint Aldgate’s Street, Oxford.

Photograph of the Old Sheep Shop in Oxford

The White Knight

Ever noticed that the picture of the White Knight bears a remarkable resemblance to Tenniel himself? John Tenniel however didn’t have a handlebar mustache at the time he drew the illustration, and had more hair.

The White Knight being thrown off his horse Photograph of Sir John Tenniel
This 15th-century bronze medallion of an Italian Renaissance ruler may be another source for Tenniel’s White Knight (Rembrandt also borrowed the figure, in reverse, for an etching). (source: Stoffel, S. Lovett, Lewis Carroll in Wonderland. The life and times of Alice and her creator, 1997, p.109)

Alice and the White Knight Medallion of a medieval knight

In a letter to Tenniel, Lewis Carroll wrote: “The White Knight must not have whiskers; he must not be made to look old”. As we can see, Tenniel did not oblige. This may lead to the suspicion that he had, in fact, someone specific in mind that he wanted to portray.

Horace Mayhew. From M. H. Spielmann, The History of "Punch" (1895)In 1895, M. H. Spielmann speculated that the White Knight was a caricature of Tenniel’s friend and Punch colleague, Horace ‘Ponny’ Mayhew. Tenniel, however, denied this in a letter (albeit 20 years later), claiming that “the resemblance was purely accidental, a mere unintentional caricature, which his friends, of course, were only too delighted to make the most of. P. M. was certainly handsome, whereas the White Knight can scarcely be considered a type of ‘manly beauty’.”

(Michael Hancher, “The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books, 1985)

According to Janis Lull, the items the White Knight carries on his horse can all be linked to an event in the story. We see among others Tweedledum’s rattle, a bottle of wine (refers to the banquet), a wooden sword (from Tweedledum), fire irons (the Knight sliding down the poker), a bell (the doorbell Alice will ring), and so on. (source: Janis Lull, “The Appliances of Art: The Carroll-Tenniel Collaboration in Through the Looking-Glass”, in: Guiliano, Edward (editor), “Lewis Carroll: A Celebration”, New York, Clarkson N. Potter, 1982)

Alice on the train

Alice in the train carriageThe man dressed in white paper, who Alice meets when she travels by train through the 3rd square, is a political joke; Tenniel’s illustration shows a cartoon of Benjamin Disraeli, who was Prime Minister when Carroll lived. Carroll and Tenniel may have had in mind the ‘white papers’ (official documents) with which such statesmen are surrounded. Before he illustrated the Alice books, Tenniel had once portrayed Disraeli in a Government White Paper suit. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.218)

Michael Hancher (“The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books, 1985”) disputes this, however, as the man in white paper does not have the obvious chin and goatee, which normally is present in Tenniel’s caricatures of Disraeli.

The drawing of Alice appears to be a composition of ‘My First Sermon’ and ‘My Second Sermon’, two paintings by the Victorian artist John Everett Millais. Carroll mentioned the first painting in his dairy, in an entry describing a visit to Millais. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.218 and Jones and Gladstone, The Alice Companion, 1998, p.65.)

painting 'My first sermon' painting 'My second sermon'

Kate M. Bunting, a visitor of my website, pointed out to me that there might be another painting that served as an inspiration for Tenniel’s illustration. The image on the left is a painting from Augustus Leopold Egg, called “The Travelling Companions” (1862). There are indeed striking resemblances if you look at the compartment windows and hats.

painting 'The travelling companions'

However, the similarities don’t necessarily mean that one or more of these paintings served as an inspiration, as apparently there were many images in Tenniel’s time that show little girls in these kind of mass-produced railway carriages, dressed like Alice, including the muff and feathered hat, which were very fashionable in that time.

Haigha, the Anglo-Saxon messenger

Haigha is being described as “wriggling like an eal … with his hands spread out like fans on each side”. The White King tells Alice that these are Anglo-Saxon attitudes. Indeed, this posture can be seen in Anglo-Saxon images. Besides the stance, the outfit of the messenger also looks Anglo-Saxon.

Compare Tenniel’s illustration for example with the figure of King Edgar in the foundation charter for the new Minster at Winchester: (source: Melanie Borchers, “A linguistic Analysis of Lewis Carroll’s Poem ‘Jabberwocky’, The Carrollian, no.24)

Haigha versus King Edgar

The Lion and the Unicorn

Various turns of phrase, together with Tenniel’s illustration, suggest that the Unicorn is prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (who Carroll, as a Tory, supported), and the Lion his Liberal rival, William Ewart Gladstone. (source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.288)

There is no real proof for this, however many people do think they resemble Tenniel’s cartoons of them which he drew for the magazine ‘Punch’.

Michael Hancher (“The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books, 1985) disputes the likeliness – also because unicorns apparently were often depicted with a beard in British heraldry (as they were supposed to be partly goatlike).

Benjamin Disraeli    William GladstoneIllustration of the Lion and the Unicorn Disraeli and Gladstone by John Tenniel (cartoon detail), Punch, 1 July 1871

Tweedledee and Tweedledum

The brothers Tweedledee and Tweedledum are clearly meant to be identical twins, who are mirror images of eachother (thereby supporting the Looking-Glass theme of the book). If we take a look at the image where they are preparing for battle, the right hand of one of the brothers mirrors the left hand of the other. Also, the folds on the blanket each trails behind him are identical. If one of them moved somewhat to the left, they would stand before eachother as before a mirror.

The Tweedle brothers very much resemble ‘John Bull’ (a fictional character representing England), who Tenniel drew several times in cartoons for the magazine Punch (like the example below, from 27 April 1861):

"Master Bull and his dentist" versus Tweedledum, both by John Tenniel

Bull is wearing a ‘skeleton suit’, which was standard for schoolboys during Tenniel’s own childhood. (source: “The Tenniel illustrations to the ‘Alice’ books”, Michael Hancher, 1985)

The illustration of Alice helping Tweedledum and Tweedledee to dress, resembles another ‘Punch’ cartoon, drawn by John Leech (“A physical force chartist arming for the fight”, Punch, July-December 1848). (source: “The Tenniel illustrations to the ‘Alice’ books”, Michael Hancher, 1985)

A physical force chartist arming for the fight - by John Leech

The clasping of their hands in the first illustration reminds us of the characteristically pose from the Siamese Twins Chang and Eng Bunker, who toured in freakshows that were widely covered in the Victorian press.
(Source: Lockwood, D., ‘Pictorial Puzzles from Alice’, The Carrolian, no. 14, autumn 2004)

The King’s men

The Alice books contain many instances of both Dodgson and Tenniel making fun of the mid-Victorian obsession with all things medieval. Tenniel’s illustration of the King’s men who rush to Humpty Dumpty after he has fallen off the wall, is an example.

The figure who lies face upwards and arms outstretched in the centre foreground, is a reference to the long-standing iconographical tradition in paintings of battle scenes, where these figures serve as a focal point in an otherwise confusing mêlée of arms and legs.

While the figures in the background of Tenniel’s picture are conventional medieval knights, whose armour suggests that they date from the thirteenth of fourteenth centuries, the infantrymen in the foreground wear the distinctive helmets and baggy breeches of the Swiss Guard, and bear muskets. Since both the Swiss Guard and the invention of the musket date from the early sixteenth century, the picture is chronologically impossible.
(Source: Lockwood, D., ‘Pictorial Puzzles from Alice’, The Carrolian, no. 14, autumn 2004)

Ballet dancing positions

Tenniel’s father was among others a dancing master, and there are several indirect references to the ballet in his ‘Punch’ cartoons. In his illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, we can find all five starting and ending positions of the classical ballet:

Dancing positions“As Martin Garner notes, the lobster turns out his feet in roughly a straight line and with heels touching, which corresponds to the first position in ballet. Alice herself seems to have twisted her body slightly while handling the thimble to the Dodo, so that her feet are roughly in the fourth (crossed) position. The Knave of Hearts stands with his feet turned outward, nearly in a straight line and separated by several inches, as in second position. Finally, as Frankie Morris points out, in Tenniel’s picture of the two footmen the Fish stands in the third position (one foot before the other, with the heel resting against the instep) while the Frog performs a demi-plié in fifth position (one foot before the other, the heel resting against the big toe).

Tenniel’s renderings of the Knave suggests that it cannot be coincidence that all five positions are depicted, and then each once only. In order to depict his carrying of the crown most effectively, the Knave’s face and upper torso were presented in profile, but his legs are wrenched around so that we see them in three-quarter view. Obviously if the whole body were viewed from the side, the balletic position of the feet would not be visible.

Again, Alice’s stance in the Dodo picture would be unconfortable to attain unless we assume her just to have completed a pirouette.

Coincidence also seems ruled out by the near absense of ballet positions (or indeed of any dance steps) among Tenniel’s ‘Looking-Glass’ illustrations. To have repeated the joke would have weakened it. The only Looking-Glass characters to adopt a ballet position (the first position) are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. (The Walrus’s similar stance can be explained by his flippers naturally sticking outwards)

Tenniels does not depict the port de bras (the position of the arms and hands) corresponding to each position of the feet, but (as Morris notes) he does show the Frog-Footman rounding his elbows in the manner enjoined by Tenniel’s father when teaching deportment. […]

Moreover, other characters in ‘Alice’s Adventures’ occasionally appear to be on the verge of dancing: Father William’s son twists his legs awkwardly, and even the Queen of Hearts seems to bend her knee and thrusts her foot sideways as if about to step out in a minuet.

Why did Tenniel introduce the ballet motif into his ‘Alice’ illustrations? There is probably no great mystery here. As elsewhere, he simply added humorous details to his drawings – details which, in this case, had an autobiographical reference.”

(Source: Lockwood, D., ‘Pictorial Puzzles from Alice’, The Carrolian, no. 14, autumn 2004)


In the background of the illustration of the Queen of Hearts pointing at Alice, you can see a large hemispherical glass building. This is probably a reference to the huge greenhouses that were built in Tenniel’s time, like the ‘Crystal Palace’ (which was named so by Punch magazine), that was designed to house the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. These glass domes were seen as a symbol of British progress. (source: Michael Hancher, “The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books”, 1985) 

The engraver

In case you’re wondering whose name it is that you see on most of the illustrations (not Tenniel’s monogram): it is the last name of Edward Dalziel, the engraver.
(source: Gardner, M., The Annotated Alice, 1998, p.186)

In many editions of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, you can find the name “B. ROLLITZ” on the left margin of the card hidden by the six of spades, in the illustration of the shower of cards . B. Rollitz engraved new plates for the Limited Editions Club publication in 1932. Many publishers copied these in stead of the original wood engravings from Dalziel. (source: Martin Gardner, “The Annotated Alice – 150th anniversary deluxe edition”, p.146)