10 July 2023

'Alice in Wonderland' book from 1870 (with card signed by author) up for auction in Southside Bookfair

| James Coleman
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Old books

An Alice in Wonderland book from 1870, with a card signed by author Lewis Carroll. Photo: James Coleman.

An ultra rare copy of Alice in Wonderland is up for grabs in this month’s Lifeline Southside Bookfair.

The hardcover book not only dates back to 1870, but also comes with a signed Easter card from author Lewis Carroll himself.

For context, the UK-based Rooke Books website is asking 650 pounds ($1250 AUD) for a similar copy. Initial valuations suggest this one, with the author’s autograph, will fetch anywhere between $3000 and $5000 when the online AllBids auction closes on 17 July.

Lifeline Canberra’s regular Bookfairs have become a local institution among bookworms, with three a year – two at Exhibition Park in Canberra every February and September and the Southside Bookfair in July.

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This year’s Southside Bookfair is a little different, because it includes the organisation’s first auction.

Together with Alice in Wonderland, there is also the first edition of another of Lewis Carroll’s books, Through the Looking Glass, a hardcover version dated 1871. And for those in the know, yes, this does include a spelling mistake for the made-up word ‘wabe’.

Then there is a first edition of The Handmaid’s Tale, dated 1985 and also signed by author Margaret Atwood.

Lifeline Canberra general manager Adam Miller explains how they were donated along with thousands of other books, which in the past have included other rare gems such as the handwritten diary of a soldier from the battlefront of World War I.

Many of these have normally been donated to the Australian War Memorial or the National Library of Australia, but not this time.

“Being as special as they are, [the auction] opens them up to a wider audience to be able to get these very rare, special books,” Adam says.

As always, the funds from book sales and gold coin donations raise a major portion of the funding needed to keep Lifeline’s local 13 11 14 crisis support and suicide prevention service available to the community.

“Every $26 worth of books that people buy is vital to our efforts because that’s the cost of a life-saving phone call we get to make at our local crisis support centre.”

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The Southside Bookfair will be packed with a range of fiction and non-fiction books, including rare books and collectables, children’s books, textbooks and foreign language books. You’ll also find magazines, sheet music, comics, maps, atlases, records and CDs, DVDs, games, jigsaws and more.

It will be held at the Tuggeranong Southern Cross Basketball Stadium, from 9 am to 6 pm, Friday, 14 July; 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday, 15 July; and 9 am to 4 pm, Sunday, 16 July. Family activities will take place between 10 am and 12 pm on the Saturday.

Or visit AllBids, if you’re after something a little more autographed.

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