Honor C. Appleton’s Inspiration


The trunk (if you look just under the lid, you can tell that the trunk was once a bright green), (Cotsen 61180)

This unassuming canvas trunk holds the inspiration for some of the early 20th Century’s most recognizable children’s book illustrations. It belonged to Honor C. Appleton (1879 – 1951), whose delicate watercolors are perhaps best known for their appearances as full color plates in the work of her long time collaborators.

A Photograph of Honor C. Appleton in round frame, ca. 1912-1914 (Cotsen 61179)

A Photograph of Honor C. Appleton in round frame, ca. 1912-1914 (Cotsen 61179)

Appleton maintained long working relationships with two prolific authors, Mrs. H. C. Cradock (best known for her stories about a young girl named Josephine and her imaginative adventures with her dolls) and F. H. Lee (best known for the series “Children’s Bookshelf”, adaptations of classic literature for young readers).

Honor C. Appleton's initals

Honor C. Appleton’s initials at the top of the trunk; the C stands for Charlotte, just in case you were wondering. . .

The trunk allows us to gain special insight into the Appleton’s work with Mrs. Cradock. How can a trunk do that you wonder? Well, it’s what’s inside that counts:



When first purchased for Cotsen, along with other items from the Appleton Estate, Appleton’s trunk was full of dolls (don’t worry they have long since been rehoused). Totaling thirteen dolls (not all shown above but all included in images below), they come in a variety of sizes and material. We do not, unfortunately, know much about the origin or manufacture of the dolls, though many seem homemade.

If you are familiar with Appleton’s illustrations for Cradock, it might be immediately apparent to you why these dolls are so relevant to her artwork. But if you’re not (and don’t worry, I wasn’t either until quite recently) allow me to explain the connection: many of the dolls found in Appleton’s trunk seem to have served as models for her illustrations.

For example, the four dolls below make recurring appearances in the Josephine books:

Four of Josephine's dolls

Four of Josephine’s dolls, from left to right: Margaret, Christabel, Quacky Jack, and one of the “Korean Dolls”.


Frontispiece to Josephine and Her Dolls (London: Blackie and Son Ltd., 1916), the first title in the Josephine series. (Cotsen 33806)

Appleton's proof and notes for page 17 of (Cotsen 34319)

Appleton’s proof and notes for page 16 of Josephine Goes Travelling (Cotsen 34319)


Plate [44], Josephine Keeps School (London: Blackie and Son, [1930s]) (Cotsen 23698)

As you can tell, the dolls’ appearances in Appleton’s illustrations are not identical to the real dolls she used as models. Christabel for example (featured towards the back of the parade illustrated above), is missing her right arm and has black hair in the stories. The Margaret doll has a pink dress while her illustrated counterpart has a white dress (though I was terrified to discover that both versions lose their wigs quite easily). But I think the similarities, for some of the dolls at least, are obvious.

Take the roguish Quacky Jack:


Though time has not been kind to Josephine’s mischievous plaything, this real stuffed duck bears an undeniable likeness to his character in the books:

Vignette, page 35

Vignette, page 35, Josephine goes Travelling (London: Blackie and Son, 1940), Quacky’s better days. . . (Cotsen 23694)

Two of the other dolls might have served as models for another doll-centric collaboration between Cradock and Appleton: Peggy and Joan.

2 models for dolls found in Peggy and Joan

2 models for dolls found in Peggy and Joan

Plate [14], though not identical, the two horses in this illustation bear a resemblance to the stuffed horse above. (Cotsen 7332)

Plate [14], The two horses in this illustration bear a resemblance to the stuffed horse above. London: Blackie and Son Limited: [ca. 1920] (Cotsen 7332)

Plate [53], The doll above can clearly be seen sitting in the bottom left of this illustration. (Cotsen 7223)

Plate [53], The doll above can clearly be seen sitting in the bottom left of this illustration. (Cotsen 7223)

One more doll is an almost complete match for “Mrs. Smith” featured in the story Where the Dolls Lived:

Mrs. smith with plate 10 of (Cotsen 23702)

Mrs. Smith next to plate 10 of Where the Dolls Lived. (Cotsen 23702)

The rest of the dolls, though unique and interesting in their own right, don’t seem to resemble dolls in Appleton’s illustrations:

As you can tell, some dolls are in far better shape than others. The center of the image shows what remains of a doll's head and her dress.

As you can tell, some dolls are in far better shape than others. The bottom left of the image shows what remains of a doll’s head and her dress.

Though using play things as inspiration for children’s literature might be par for the course, few authors and illustrators create whole worlds and series based on actual toys. It is significant then, that Appleton’s approach of using doll models actually predates her more well known contemporaries: A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard.

Milne, of course, is best known for his stories centered around a certain bear named Winnie-the-Pooh, and Shepard was Milne’s original illustrator (as well as the original illustrator for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows). What you may not know, however, is that most of Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh characters are modeled after real life counterparts as well:

Children's Center at 42nd St, The New York Public Library. "Kanga, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1925. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-1aab-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

Children’s Center at 42nd St, The New York Public Library. “Kanga, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1925. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-1aab-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

The shot above is provided by the New York Public Library. In their Children’s Center in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Pooh and his friends remain on display. The dolls were originally bought for Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne (who was the real life inspiration for Christopher Robin in the Pooh series of course), starting with the gift of “Edward Bear” from a Harrod’s department store on August 21st, 1921 (Christopher Robin’s first birthday).

Winnie-the-Pooh first appears by name in the London newspaper the Evening Post as the main character in Milne’s short story “The Wrong Sort of Bees” Published on December 24th, 1925. Later, the bear appears in the first title in the Pooh series: the eponymous Winnie-the-Pooh (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1926).


Pages [3]-1, Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh make their début together in the opening lines of Winnie-the-Pooh. (Cotsen 3014)


Pages 4-5, the clever formatting and Shepard’s endearing illustrations helped make the Pooh series an instant classic (Cotsen 3014)

But “Edward Bear”, the earlier incarnation of Pooh who shares the name with his model counterpart from Harrods, shows up in text a few years earlier in Milne’s best-selling collection of poetry: When We Were Very Young (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1924), in the poem “Teddy Bear” (Teddy is a nickname for both Edward and Theodore):


Pages 86-87 from the poem “Teddy Bear” (Cotsen 10411)

Interestingly, however, “Edward Bear” actually shows up a few pages earlier in Shepard’s illustration for a different poem “Halfway Down”:

Pages 80-81, "Edward Bear" can be seen at the top of the stairs; while a very familiar boy sits on the stairs. (Cotsen 10411)

Pages 80-81, “Edward Bear” can be seen at the top of the stairs; while another very familiar boy sits in the middle. (Cotsen 10411)

So even though Winnie-the-Pooh arguably first appeared in print as early as 1924, the process of building an imaginative world based around real dolls had already appeared eight years earlier in Cradock and Appleton’s Josephine and Her Dolls (1916). Our collection of Appleton’s dolls exists as the artifact for what might be the first transformative process of using children’s dolls as direct inspiration for a series of children’s fiction. Though sentient dolls have played rolls in children’s fiction since the beginning, Appleton and Cradock created a popular series that chronicled the adventures of Josephine and her dolls across numerous years and titles. Unfortunately, Appleton, Cradock, Josephine, and Josephine’s dolls have not enjoyed the same kind of sustained familiarity and adoration as Shepard, Milne, Christopher Robin, and Pooh and Friends.


In addition to Appleton’s dolls and suitcase (61180), her portrait (61179 above), the artists’ proof from Josephine Goes Travelling (34319 above), a run of the Josephine books and the “Children’s Series,” Cotsen is home to an Appleton sketch book (61177), and more of her finished artwork and artists’ proofs (61181, 61182, 61183, 5053062, 5641042, and 6527185).

If you are interested in more dolls in the Cotsen collection, check out this blog post as well:

Toys and Books from a Czech Fairy Tale: Dlouhý, Siroký a Bystrozraký (High, Wide, and Cleareyed)

To learn more about the NYPL collection of “Pooh and his friends” and the history of the dolls check out these links too:



Earliest Chinese Editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at Princeton


Their history is a long tale (but not sad, unlike the Mouse’s). It went something like this:

                     Weaver, a collector,
                   wrote to Chao, a
            find me
                in Chinese."
                  Chao located
                    three that escaped
                       young readers'
                        dirty li'l
                 One to Parrish,
              who cherished
         such as
           Alice in
                 and Thai.
                      his trove
                     in Firestone.
                  Aren't you
              how a
              tale twists
                in Chinese;
                   is he who
                     "taught us"
                      find out


To fully explain how some of the earliest Chinese editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland found their way to Rare Books and Special Collections of the Princeton University Library, this post will begin by introducing a few people, whose professional backgrounds seem unrelated to children’s literature. Besides having been born in the same decade, these three figures likely shared an appreciation for whimsical humor and childish innocence, as well as an interest in playing with languages, qualities that would make the best candidates for “grown-up” admirers of the Wonderland created by Lewis Carroll. Warren Weaver (1894-1978) was a mathematician, a pioneer in machine translation, and former director of the Division of Natural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation. He authored Alice in Many Tongues, “an unprecedented documentation of the publishing history of Carroll’s novel and its translations into…forty-seven languages” (O’Sullivan 29). Yuen Ren Chao (赵元任, 1892-1982) was the founder of modern linguistics in China and a distinguished professor of Oriental Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Chao published the first Chinese translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1922. Hu Shi (胡适, 1891-1962) was a philosopher, an influential figure in China’s New Culture Movement, and for a time China’s ambassador to the United States. A close friend of Chao’s, Hu also added to Princeton’s collection of Lewis Carroll’s works.

Early Chinese editions of Alice can be found in both the Morris L. Parrish Collection and the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton. The Dodgson section of the Parrish Collection contains nearly one thousand items of works written by Lewis Carroll, adaptations and parodies inspired by him, and books about him. Five of the Chinese copies were gifts from Warren Weaver, who related in his Alice in Many Tongues how he procured some of them. Weaver enlisted the help of Yuen Ren Chao, the first Chinese translator of Alice. Already teaching at Berkeley at the time, Chao managed to collect from China “three complete sets of all five of the editions then in existence” (Weaver 62). Weaver gave one set to Morris Longstreth Parrish, Class of 1888, whose fine collection of Victorian novelists was eventually bequeathed to Princeton. There is a discrepancy between Weaver’s description and the actual holding, however, because only the first, second, third, and fifth earliest editions, dating from 1922 to 1931, are currently to be found in the Parrish Collection.

1922 cover colophon

阿麗思漫游奇境記 = Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll; translated by Yuen Ren Chao. 上海: 商務印書館, 1922. (Dodgson 81)
Cover and colophon of the first Chinese edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published by the Commercial Press in Shanghai.

1939 title page 1939 name card

阿麗思漫游奇境記 = Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll; translated by Yuen Ren Chao. 4th post-1932 edition. 上海: 商務印書館, 1939. (Dodgson 85)
A later edition gifted by Hu Shi, the translator’s close friend, to Princeton in 1958.

Princeton received a 1939 edition as a gift from Hu Shi, who was among the closest friends of the translator’s family. (At Chao’s private wedding ceremony held in 1921, Hu was one of only two guests invited and the couple’s chief witness.) Hu was briefly Curator of the Gest Library at Princeton, 1950-1952, and in 1958, gave Princeton his own copy of Alice, inscribing on the title page that the book be presented to “the Gest Oriental Library.” Then, perhaps as an afterthought, he inserted a name card with different instructions to give it to “the Lewis Carroll Collection of Princeton University.”

Translator’s Words

In the preface he wrote for the first Chinese edition of Alice, Chao acknowledged the challenge of translating the book. As he rightly observed, Alice was neither new nor obscure by the time he decided to give it a try–the book had been out for more than fifty years and entertained multiple generations of children in English-speaking countries. The reason why no Chinese version existed, he figured, was the formidable challenge posed by word play and nonsense in Carroll’s writing (Chao 10). In fact, the only “Chinese version” that Chao was aware of was done, albeit verbally, by Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston (1874-1938), tutor to Puyi (溥仪), the last Emperor of China. The Scot had told the story of Alice in Chinese to the lonely teenage boy in the Forbidden City. Chao decided that his translation project with Alice, carried out in the midst of Chinese language reform movement, would be an opportune experimentation with written vernacular Chinese, which was replacing Classical Chinese (10-11).

1932 postcard Postcard from Yuen Ren Chao to a Mr. K.C. Lee of Anderson, Meyer & Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, dated February 2, 1932. Inserted in the first Chinese edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Dodgson 81)


Commercial Press A historical picture of the headquarters of the Commercial Press on Baoshan Road, Shanghai. Japanese bombings on January 29, 1932 (exactly 84 years ago) wiped out the buildings, along with Yuen Ren Chao’s unpublished translation of Through the Looking Glass. (Source of image: Office Of Shanghai Chronicles)

After the wild success of his Chinese edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chao went on to translate Through the Looking Glass. However, his second Alice project was ill-timed. In what came to be known as the Shanghai Incident in 1932, Japanese carrier aircraft bombed Shanghai and destroyed the headquarters of the Commercial Press, Chao’s publisher. Princeton’s copy of the first edition was accompanied by a postcard sent by the translator from Beijing to a friend in Shanghai on February 2, 1932, only five days into the Shanghai Incident. Chao mentioned his almost-completed work with Carroll’s second Alice book in a somber tone, “I have corrected half of the proofs of my translation of Through the Looking Glass. I think the whole thing has been burned up along with everything else at the Paoshan [now spelled as Baoshan] Road office of the Commercial Press.” Chao would not be able to reproduce his work and publish a Chinese translation of Looking Glass until 1968, when he was in his seventies.

The First Chinese Edition of Alice, 1922

1922 Alice 1922 epigraph Mencius

Unnumbered pages that follow the title page of the first Chinese edition of Alice. Epigraph (right) is a quote from Mencius: “A great man is he who has not lost the innocence of his childhood.” (Dodgson 81)

Chinese like to compare the task of translation to a graceful dance performed while wearing shackles, meaning the translator has to be artful within the constraints of the original text. The “constraints” in Carroll’s Wonderland are more than those of average texts. Weaver methodically classified the principal problems involved in translating Alice into five areas: the verses, the puns, the use of specially manufactured words or nonsense words, the jokes which involve logic, and the otherwise unclassifiable Carroll twists of meaning with underlying humor (81-82). In Chao’s trailblazing Chinese translation, we witness how Alice encompasses both general challenges and unique Carrollian tests for a foreign language and how the translator meets them head-on through a creative and imaginative employment of the Chinese language.

1922 tail tale

The Mouse’s Tale, in Chapter 3, “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale.” (Dodgson 81)

The most famous pun in Alice is perhaps the Mouse’s long and sad tale (tail). Chao did an ingenious job of making a pun, if not exactly the same one, here in the Chinese text. Chinese words for “tale” (故事, or gu shi) and “tail” (尾巴, or wei ba) are not related in any way. Chao found a clever solution by playing with the word “sad” instead, which he translated into “wei qu” (委屈) (37), although its more precise meaning is “feel wronged”, “sense of grievance,” etc. Thanks to the exceedingly rich reservoir of homophones in the Chinese language (a source of confusion for Chinese children learning to speak their native tongue), Chao was able to match “wei qu” (委屈) with “wei qu” (尾曲), a made-up combination that literally means “a tail in a curved shape.” Voila! In the Chinese version, when the Mouse describes its tale as “wei qu” (sad), Alice can see that its tail is indeed “wei qu” (curved). What the Chinese-speaking Alice keeps on puzzling about is why the Mouse calls its tale/tail “bitter” (苦)–a twist introduced by the Chinese translator. Alice must be thinking of “bitter” as a flavor, but “bitter” can also mean “suffering,” which is close to “sad,” thus preserving the meaning in the original English version.

The earliest Chinese editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from the 1920s and 1930s are valuable primary sources to support in-depth inquiries in translation studies, the development of nascent written vernacular Chinese, and the international influence of Lewis Carroll on children’s literature. Comparisons between Chinese and English versions, as well as among multiple Chinese editions will yield interesting discoveries for those who appreciate nuance of language and cultural differences.


Chao, Yuen Ren, trans. Alisi man you qi jing ji. By Lewis Carroll. 1st ed. Shanghai: Shang wu yin shu guan, 1922.

O’Sullivan, Emer. “Warren Weaver’s Alice in Many Tongues: A Critical Appraisal.” Alice in a World of Wonderlands : The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece. Eds. Jon A. Lindseth and Alan Tannenbaum. First ed. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press in cooperation with the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 2015. 29-41.

Weaver, Warren. Alice in Many Tongues. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964.


Wainwright, Alexander D. A Catalogue of the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists in the Princeton University Library: Draft. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Library, 2001.