History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search

Narratives

Former Display Label - Lewis Carroll and photography

The lid of this box [1] carries the initials C.L.D. for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, best known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1872). The chemicals it contained were used to prepare the plates for his photography.

Dodgson was a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, and a clergyman. He became interested in photography through his uncle, whom he accompanied on several photographic expeditions. His most famous photographs are of children particularly those of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for his stories. He is considered to be one of the best amateur photographers of his time, finely controlling the difficult wet-collodion process.

Dodgson would have used a camera and tank of the types shown here [2, 3]. He celebrated the difficulties of using such equipment in Hiawatha's Photographing (1887):

From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod
Crouched beneath its dusky cover
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence
Said 'Be motionless, I beg you!'
Mystic, awful was the process.

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