'Exceedingly rare' classic book set to fetch up to £2million at auction

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll
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An 'exceedingly rare' first edition copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which author Lewis Carroll gave to a friend who later became Dean of Durham is set to fetch between £1.5 million and £2 million at an auction in America next week.

The book, published in 1865, was originally owned and treasured by the Very Reverend George William Kitchin, who befriended Lewis Carroll when they worked together at Christ Church college at the University of Oxford.

The 1865 edition of Alices Adventures in Wonderland

The 1865 edition of Alices Adventures in Wonderland

Kitchin was Dean of Durham for eighteen years from 1894 until 1912,so he was the last Victorian Dean of Durham and the first twentieth century Dean of Durham.

He died at the deanery,Durham on October 13,1912.

Kitchin gave his precious copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland to his eldest daughter, Alexandra, affectionately known as Xie, whose godmother was Princess Alexandra of Denmark,who later became Queen Alexandra,wife of King Edward VII. Queen Alexandra and Xie’s mother, Alice, were childhood friends.

Lewis Carroll was particularly fond of Alexandra Kitchin and photographed her about fifty times from the age of four until just before her sixteenth birthday.

Now the rare first edition copy of Alice’s Adventures of Wonderland,orignally owned by the Dean of Durham and then by his daughter,Alexandra,is coming up for sale in America,where it is expected to fetch between £1.5 million and £2 million at Christie’s in New York on Thursday, June 16.

Auctioneers Christie’s describe the book as "one of the greatest rarities in the book world."

It is one of only twenty two known first edition copies of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.Sixteen of these copies are in institutional libraries and only six remain in private hands.

Of these six, only two are still in their original binding and the Dean of Durham’s copy is considered to be the finest of the two copies.

Christie’s say: "No other copy in the original binding in this condition exists in private hands."

Since 1865,the copy to be auctioned next week has had only six owners.

The Dean of Durham’s daughter, Alexandra sold the book at Sotheby’s in London on April 6,1925, but tragically and bizarrely she died on the day of the sale.

New York financier Carl Pforzheimer became the book’s third owner.

American collector Harriet Borland was the fourth owner. Then the book was bought by TV mogul William 'Bill' Self, who, as president of Twentieth Century Fox, was responsible for turning the movie M*A*S*H into a hit television series.

In 1997, Mr Self sold the book to its present owner, Jon Lindseth, a wealthy Lewis Carroll scholar and collector, who is now selling the book at Christie’s in New York.