About the book “Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there”

The creation of the story

In the six years since he wrote Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dodgson had been teaching Alice and her sisters the game of chess. He made up stories to illustrate the moves of the pieces and the rules of the game. Many of these stories were used for the sequel, “Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there”.

alice-looking-leftDodgson’s distant cousin Alice Raikes suggested that she gave him the idea for the Looking-Glass theme, when he asked her to stand in front of a mirror, holding an orange, and tell him in which hand she was holding it. However, Dodgson met Alice Raikes only after he had already sent the manuscript to the printers, so this is untrue. (source: Martin Gardner, “The Annotated Alice – 150th anniversary edition”, p.166)

The ‘wrong-way-round idea’ dominates the book, because this kind of game was a favourite of Dodgson’s. He liked to write letters in mirror-writing, drew pictures which changed into different ones when held upside down, and he also liked to play his musical boxes backwards. Some people think that this has something to do with his left-handedness, and the asymmetry of his body.

Originally, the story supposedly contained a chapter called ‘A wasp in a Wig‘. But Dodgson decided to drop it before publication.


Dodgson wanted to secure an illustrator well before the text was complete. John Tenniel was willing, but engaged with other projects. Dodgson approached Sir Joseph Noël Paton, but he was ill. Then he wrote to Tenniel, offering to buy his time from his publishers; Tenniel agreed to illustrate the book in his spare time.

Tenniel’s illustration of the Jabberwock was originally intended as the book’s frontispiece, but it turned out to be so horrible that Dodgson replaced it with the picture of the White Knight on horseback.


The title of the book was much discussed by Dodgson. In a letter to his publisher, dating 19 March 1875, he wrote that he had “another” idea for the title, namely “Jabberwocky and Other Mysteries, Being the Book That Alice Found in Her Trip Through the Looking-Glass”. He wanted everything to be in reverse printing, except ‘Jabberwocky’. (source: Melanie Borchers, “A Linguistic Analysis Lewis Carroll’s Poem ‘Jabberwocky'”, The Carrollian no. 24)

The working title of Alice’s new adventures was ‘Looking-Glass House’. It evolved to ‘Behind the Looking-Glass’, but eventually Dodgson’s friend Henry Liddon suggested ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ and the subtitle ‘And What Alice Found There’ was added.
(source: Stoffell, S. Lovett, Lewis Carroll in Wonderland. The life and times of Alice and her creator, 1997, p.94-95)


“Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there” was published in December 1871 (but was dated 1872), in an edition of 9,000 copies.

As with Alice’s Adventures, copies were bound in red cloth gilt, with the date and number of the ‘thousand’ on the title page. It reached the 70 th thousand in 1932. The last reprint was in 1942.

After publishing the story, Dodgson kept improving it, just as he did with “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. In the 1890s he made major revisions, which were incorporated in the 61st thousand edition of ‘Through the Looking-Glass’, which was published in 1897. (source)

In 1887, Macmillan issued cheaper versions of “Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there”, styled as ‘People’s Edition’ in green pictorial cloth.


The story has been translated into 65 languages, and 1,530 different editions were identified all over the world in 2015. The number keeps increasing. (source: “Alice in a World of Wonderlands”, J.A. Lindseth and A. Tannenbaum, Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, 2015)