Celebrating Alice 150: An Unrecorded Russian Translation of Through the Looking Glass

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.  I won’t know for sure until I can look for it  in the massive new three-volume bibliography of Alice translations, Alice in Many Wonderlands, published by Oak Knoll Books.  I’ll have to wait until Firestone’s copy arrives…

The surrealist illustrations for the Yakhnin translation seemed worth posting in the meantime.  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.



Answers to the First Ever Cotsen Puzzler!

Before revealing the answers to our eighteenth-century puzzlers (and yes, the language shows its age), first a peek at a new acquisition that any of our readers interested in the history of math education or  the use of wall charts in classroom may find fascinating.  It’s a wall chart for teaching elementary arithmetic that was published in the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

Arifmetika measures 67 x 103 centimeters and is backed with linen to make it sturdier (in the corners there are two large grommets for hanging it on a wall).   It was to be used during quarters 1 and 2 in second grade when the fundamentals of addition, subtraction, and multiplication were taught.   There is a partly legible stamp on the back, that could be a property stamp from a school in one of the former Central Asian republics.


Wall chart Arifmetika by N. Nikitin, E. R. Fortunatova, and L. I. Bolodina. Cotsen NR Cyrillic unprocessed item no 7220451

Below is a detail of the upper left-hand quarter of the chart.   Most of the text is directed at the teacher, mostly suggestions for ways to visualize drills for the different operations, including different kinds of aides like the box appearing in the lower right hand corner, possibly standard issue in the schools then.

Cotsen_Arithmetika_Poster_1st Cotsen_Arithmetika_Poster_2nd

Below is a detail of the chart’s upper right hand corner.  You can make out the little booklet mounted landscapewise that contains the multiplication tables for 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.



Above is the lower right hand corner, with the rest of the credits running above the lower edge.  Arifmetika‘s illustrations are credited to A. I. Saychuk and the press run was 2000 copies.   Many thanks to Thomas Keenan, Firestone Library’s Slavic Bibliographer extraordinaire, for help translating the hard bits  (Pikov Andropov wasn’t delivering any public figures to campus this week or we would have flagged him down in the Firestone turn-out).

And now, the solutions for the puzzlers from Arithmetic Made Familiar and Easy

Puzzler 1 asked you to figure out the ages of girl and older man at the time of their wedding.  The answer is that she was 15 and he was 45 years old.  Here’s how the author of Arithmetic Made Familiar and Easy explains how to get the answer.

189 190



Puzzler 2 asked you to calculate how many geese the pretty maid was herding.  Here’s how to get the answer of 99 feathered friends…

183 184

And thanks for playing  “Stump the Chump”  with Cotsen…