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A Classic Tale

University Libraries Celebrate “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

By Liam Farrell


You can fall down the rabbit hole and maybe come up with a decent answer to why a raven is like a writing desk next month as University Libraries celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

An exhibition honoring Lewis Carroll’s classic story of a young girl who enters a fantasy world of grinning cats, manic tea parties and antagonistic playing cards will open Oct. 1 in Hornbake Library’s Maryland Room Gallery. It will feature early editions of “Alice” and its sequel, “Through the Looking Glass,” with displays of how artists, illustrators and popular culture across the globe have interpreted Carroll’s creations.

The artifacts are from the collection of August and Clare Imholtz. Clare worked at UMD’s Center for Substance Abuse Research from 1999 until her retirement in 2010.

The couple became interested in collecting when August was writing an article on translations of the famous nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” and discovered the secretary for the Lewis Carroll Society of North America lived in Maryland. Now, the pair has 4,700 Carroll books, including 160 Russian “Alice” editions.

“It’s just a wonderfully amusing and clever book,” Clare says. “I hope (exhibit visitors) go home and read their ‘Alice.’”

Douglas McElrath, the acting head of Special Collections and University Archives, says the exhibit will show the “universality of Alice as a cultural figure.”

“It really is more than a children’s book,” he says.

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