Sir John Tenniel's Original Alice Chessboard
This item is not for sale but forms part of the shop's private collection.
Discovered in the summer of 2011, the survival of Sir John Tenniel’s hand painted Alice chessboard had been previously completely undocumented. Although Tenniel was known to have undertaken commissioned artwork after the success of the Alice books, the Alice chessboard is of historic importance as the game of chess is not merely a theme of Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-Glass’, but constitutes its principal narrative device.
The original chessboard dates from circa 1875 and features 16 ink and watercolour illustrations of characters from the book. These are depicted within borders representing shattered glass. This is the first ever appearance of Alice in colour and pre-dates the publication of ‘The Nursery Alice’ by some fifteen years.
John Tenniel’s Alice illustrations are considered to be the most important depictions in the history of English children’s books. Most of the chessboard’s 16 illustrations show significant differences to the published versions. There is also far greater detail in some images than is present in the book illustrations. It is clear from a reading of the text of ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ that the changes to the compositions on the chessboard were not made solely to offer them in a more graphic form, but also to accentuate ambiguities in some areas of the text, and provide greater clarity in others.
This item is from the private collection of the shop.