Tidbit Histories – FLASH! Alice Debuts, Then Disappears!

2000 copies of the first printing of ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND were printed by the Clarendon Press in Oxford in 1865 and delivered to Macmillan for publication.  Fifty copies were reserved for the author, one of which Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) requested Macmillan send directly to his young friend Alice Hargraves, the model for the character of Alice, to arrive by July 4th.

Meanwhile, Dodgson dropped in at the Macmillan offices and inscribed 18 to 20 of the remaining 49 copies to be distributed to friends. On July 19th Dodgson received a letter from his illustrator, John Tenniel, stating his dissatisfaction with the printing of his illustrations.

On August 3rd, Dodgson decided they would have to reprint the entire edition. Dodgson wrote everyone who had received the inscribed advance copies requesting they be returned, but with a promise for a better copy. The roughly 1,950 copies of defective sheets remaining were sold to D. Appleton and Company in New York and, with a new title page, became the first American edition of Alice.

It is questionable whether it can even be said that this printing was ever published in England, as no copies were ever distributed to libraries for copyright or to book stores for sale. The British Library finally received a copy in 1952.

Of the 22 known surviving copies, one recently sold at Christies with an estimate of 2-3 million dollars.


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Tidbit Histories – Before Ebooks, In a Land Far Away.

The e-reader is not the first challenge to the traditional concept of a book. In 1841 Bernard Tauchnitz of Leipzig published the first paperback in a projected series he called ‘Collection of British Authors’. Coming on the heels of the first cloth-bound book in 1822, his series would include such notables as Dickens, Scott & George Eliot.

Intended for British and American tourists traveling on the continent via the growing rail network, one of the terms on Tauchnitz’s contract was that purchasers would not bring the books back into an English speaking country, thus creating the idea of the disposable book.

His scrupulously drafted agreements between author and publisher foreshadowed modern international copyright. Tauchnitz died in 1895 but his series was continued by his heirs until 1933 having published 5,097 titles by 525 authors.Tauchnitz5

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Tidbit Histories – Flash! Johannes Gutenberg Unwittingly Sparks Revolution.

Once Gutenberg printed his now famous Bible in 1455 –widely accepted as the first book printed from moveable type, the printing press spread through Europe like wildfire.

By 1460 printing houses appeared throughout the Rhineland in Cologne, Basil and Nuremberg. By 1465 the printing press had crossed the Alps into Italy. The first book was printed in Paris in 1470 and England in 1476. By 1480 there were printing presses in operation in more than 110 towns throughout Western Europe. By 1501, the end of the first one-half century, there were between 15 and 20 million printed books representing over 35,000 titles.

During this brief 46 year period, more books were printed than had been produced by all the scribes in Europe during the previous 1,100 years.gutenberg9_phil


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Tidbit Histories – Thomas Paine Proves the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword!

If ever there was proof that the pen is mightier than the sword; it is in the words than flowed from the pen of Thomas Paine.

COMMON SENSE, the first unqualified argument for political independence, was published in Philadelphia in January of 1776. Six months later the same city witnessed the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Less well known, but perhaps even more impressive, was Paine’s call to arms after a series of devastating defeats by the Continental Army. In the autumn of 1776, the Continentals were defeated at Long Island, forced to retreat from New York, lost the battle of White Plains and surrendered the redoubts at Fort Washington and Fort Lee. Paine, a participant in these dark defeats, once again turned to his pen producing a modest pamphlet called THE AMERICAN CRISIS which began; “These are the times that try men’s souls… Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Two days after publication, Washington had the text read before his regiments drawn up in ranks. Another two days later Washington led his troops back across the Delaware and on to victories at Trenton and Princeton.

Note of interest: It is estimated that in the year 1776 over 500,000 copies of Thomas Paine’s COMMON SENSE were printed. The population of the Colonies was slightly in excess of 2 million making one copy of COMMON SENSE for every four inhabitantsThomas Paine2

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Tidbit Histories – A CHRISTMAS CAROL not Dickens’ favorite!

In October of 1844, Charles Dickens and his family were on holiday in Genoa. Having written A CHRISTMAS CAROL the previous year, it was time to start his second Christmas Story. Unfortunately Dickens found that he could not write away from his beloved England. Then, inspiration struck, ignited by the sound of the bells of Genoa.

Dickens began work of THE CHIMES. In his own words, every day he would “blaze away”, wrathful and hot.” As is A CHRISTMAS CAROL, there would be visitations by spirits, and in the end there would be redemption of a wretched soul who came to understand the plight of the poor.

After only four weeks, the manuscript was sent to Engand. Dickens followed, anxious to read it aloud to his friends.

Gathered in a small apartment, Dickens read for over three hours. When he was done, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was Dickens at his most radical. His critics called it revolutionary.

Of his five Christmas Books, THE CHIMES was Dickens’ personal favorite exemplifying the benevolence of the human spirit.The Chimes3



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