A 1990s Russian Through the Looking Glass for the Alice 150 Celebrations

Is there anybody in the children’s book world who doesn’t know that  the original edition of Alice in Wonderland was published 150 years ago?

This week has been one of the highpoints of ALICE 150: Celebrating Wonderland organized by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America  at different New York City venues.  It’s your last chance to see  the splendid Morgan Library exhibition curated by Caroline Vega, which closes this weekend.  If you missed seeing Carroll’s original manuscript on loan from the British Library, the manuscript will be displayed the opening week of the Alice exhibition at the  Rosenbach before returning to England.

October 7th and 8th the Grolier Club hosted a colloquium organized by collector Jon Lindseth about the history of Carroll’s masterpiece in translation, Alice in a World of Wonderlands (Minjie Chen and I attended and we’ll post a conference report next week).  I was sure there had to be something in the stacks that would serve as a little contribution from Cotsen to the mad tea party in Gotham for the Alice cognoscenti.

Luckily I remembered that a few weeks ago some proofs for illustrations accompanying a Russian translation of Through the Looking Glass published in Pioner magazine had turned up when a batch of new issues of this famous children’s magazine were added to Cotsen’s run.

A little research established that this magazine version is not described in Lewis Carroll’s Alice: An Annotated Checklist of the Lovett Collection, which has a section on editions illustrated by artists other than Tenniel and another on translations.  And Nina M. Demurova doesn’t mention it in her essay “Alice Speaks Russian: The Russian Translations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass” in the Harvard Library Bulletin, n.s. 5:4 (Winter 1994-5).   I finally found a reference to Leonid Yakhnin’s  translation of Alice in Wonderland in the Cassady Lewis Carroll collection at the University of Southern California, but not of Through the Looking Glass illustrated by A. Martynov.  But it is described on  page 721 of volume 3 of  Many Wonderlands, vol. 3, p. 721.  Shame on me for thinking I’d outsmarted Jon Lindseth’s amazing team…

But not everything could be illustrated in the bibliography, so I’m posting the surrealist illustrations for the Yakhnin translation for Carrolians’ pleasure and information.  So here is the gallery of familiar Carrollian characters as interpreted by A. Martynov for the Yakhnin translation in Pioner.


The “cover design” for the first installment of Through the Looking Glass in the January-February 1992 issue of Pioner. The translator isn’t credited, but the illustrator’s name (in very small type) runs parallel to the gutter in the lower left.


The “cover design” redesigned for the second installment. The illustrator’s name now appears below the image of the two knights. Notice that the colors of the shaded chessboard background has been changed.









This is the proof for the “cover design” of the first installment with the green shading minus the text running parallel to the gutter.


The Red Queen in motion.


The battling Tweedledee and Tweedledum interrupted by the monstrous crow.


The Sheep, formerly the White Queen. This illustration appears in both installments, although the reproduction in the second part is quite dark, giving the sheep quite a sinister cast.


Humpty Dumpty, of course. I’m not sure if the sections to the right and left of his head are supposed to remind the reader of a garnish of sliced hard-boiled egg.


The Lion and the Unicorn duking it out.


The White and the Red Knight (here in black armor) trying to win Alice, who is nowhere to be seen.