The Front and Rear Endpapers in the Three Volumes
by Connie Brown
Jon Lindseth, general editor of Alice in a World of Wonderlands, called me in the autumn of 2012, having just read a Wall Street Journal profile of my manuscript-mapmaking business. He wondered whether I’d be interested in creating a black & white map showing locations of the 174 languages/dialects into which Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had been translated. One hundred seventy four translations! How very curious! Of course I accepted—it was much too quirky and intriguing to pass up.
Actually, every cartographic project I undertake takes me down one rabbit hole or another. For a private map library, I’d just finished painting a globe in which every country was defined by its national flag rather than its geographic content. For months I was a map nerd, spouting trivia wherever I went (flags really are interesting — Mozambique’s flag, for example, shows an AK-47 crossed with a hoe—but never mind). For a huge map of Africa, I’d depicted not only a dung beetle but various kinds of dung (and did you know that the high calcium content of the spotted hyena’s dung makes it a great chalk substitute in Tanzanian classrooms?). My friends and family tolerate my passing obsessions, grateful that my next project will soon engage me. In the case of the Alice map, however, they’ve actually perked up their ears. And because 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Alice’s publication, I have license to extend my obsession through all this year’s celebrations and exhibits.
The Alice map presented all sorts of challenges. The 174 translation locations are scattered all over the world, with the largest concentration in Western Europe, and within that, Great Britain. Jon had directed me to note the name of each language and the name of its location, requiring—since all my maps are hand-executed—a huge original map, nearly 5’ wide. In the end, I relegated the names to an extensive key; otherwise, the map would have crawled with nomenclature. Even with the key, I had to enlarge Western Europe as an inset map. While I was working on the project, I peppered John and his co-editor Alan Tannenbaum with minute questions on a seemingly daily basis. Many of the language and location names were exotic, requiring numerous proofreading sessions.
Even with all that pesky detail, the Alice map was a glorious project. I was able to use Victorian design details, along with two of my favorite period-appropriate lettering styles: Bell, designed in the late 18th century and used extensively in Carroll’s time; and, for the title, the quirky and beautiful Victorian Gothic. And I enjoyed the great pleasure of creating facsimiles of Tenniel drawings as spot illustrations throughout the map. Beyond the main map, Jon commissioned three small painted maps focusing on translation-heavy regions: Scotland, Spain, and India. All four maps will be in the Grolier Club’s autumn exhibit.
In the course of the project, I re-read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, read Morton Cohen’s great biography of Carroll, and dabbled my toes in translation waters. Aside from the usual suspects (Limburgish, Macedonian, Old Norse, Mongolian), there’s one translation in its own absurd and fittingly Carrollian category: Zumorigenflit, described as a parody of an imaginary language, located in Uzbekistan.
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