Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Wonderland Postage Stamp Case

Lewis Carroll a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the author of Alice in Wonderland, was also known for this little-known invention: the Wonderland Postage Stamp Case. Now that we use postage stamps so sparingly, it's hard to imagine the need for such a thing or what it would possibly be like.

The Wonderland Postage Stamp Case was a cloth-backed folder with twelve slots, two marked for inserting the then most commonly used penny stamp, and one each for other denominations to one shilling. The folder fit into a slip case decorated with a picture of Alice on one side and the Cheshire Cat on the other. The whole thing fit in your pocket or purse. When you bought it new it also included a copy of Carroll's pamphletted lecture, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing.

Carroll begins this lecture:
Some American writer has said “the snakes in this district may be divided into one species—the venomous.” The same principle applies here. Postage-Stamp-Cases may be divided into one species, the “Wonderland.” Imitations of it will soon appear, no doubt: but they cannot include the two Pictorial Surprises, which are copyright.
You don’t see why I call them ‘Surprises’? Well, take the Case in your left-hand, and regard it attentively. You see Alice nursing the Duchess’s Baby? (An entirely new combination, by the way: it doesn’t occur in the book.) Now, with your right thumb and forefinger, lay hold of the little book, and suddenly pull it out. The Baby has turned into a Pig! If that doesn’t surprise you, why, I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if your own Mother-in-law suddenly turned into a Gyroscope!

On the flip side, the Cheshire Cat fades away.

First editions of the Wonderland Postage Stamp Case have sold for over $8,000, although they continued to sell throughout the 1890s at least for the remainder of Carroll's life.

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