Spotlight on Wonderland: The Hatter


Why is a raven like a writing desk? The Mad Hatter may not know, but asking nonsense questions is all part of the appeal of this quirky character. 150 years after he appeared in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, he is still loved for his maddening garden parties where it is always Tea Time.

How did Lewis Carroll come up with his Hatter? One inspiration could be that hat makers in the 19th century were known for going ‘mad’ from mercury poisoning, as mercury was commonly used in felt hat manufacturing.

Mad Hatter Running

Sir John Tenniel (the original illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) may have based his drawing of the Hatter after Theopilus Carter, an eccentric Oxford furniture dealer who always wore a top hat. Since Tenniel, countless illustrators and artists have created their own versions of the Hatter. Do you have a favorite?

Did you know?

  • The Mad Tea Party did not appear in the original Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. The never-ending tea party would not make its debut until a later edition of the tale.
  • Carroll never uses the name ‘Mad Hatter’. Instead, it is the Cheshire Cat who tells Alice that the Hatter and March Hare are “both mad.”
  • The Hatter reappears in Through the Looking Glass as ‘Hatta’.

Visit the Maryland Room gallery in Hornbake Library from October 2105-July 2016 to explore the Hatter and the rest of the Wonderland cast of characters in the exhibit Alice 150 Years and County…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: elections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

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Alice 150 Years and Counting Opening Reception

On Friday, October 16, 2015, the University of Maryland Libraries hosted the opening reception for the exhibition Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz.

Alice Postcard

Students, staff, Alice fans, bibliophiles, librarians, collectors, and the curious alike gathered in Hornbake Library to view the new exhibit and enjoy a night of frabjous festivities. A Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter were even spotted among the crowd. Testudo got into the Wonderland spirit, donning the Mad Hatter’s hat!

Tasty treats included The King of Hearts’ Mushroom Tarts, The Duchess’ Royal Tea Sandwiches, “Don’t Be Late!” Carrot Cake, and “Off with Her Head!” Red Velvet Ice Cream. Collectors August and Clare Imholtz and members of the Alice 150 exhibit team were on hand to delight guests with details of the exhibit.

Speakers included Interim Dean of the Libraries’ Dr. Babak Hamidzadeh, Associate Dean for Collection Strategies & Services, Dr. Daniel Mack, Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Doug McElrath, and private collector August Imholtz.

Visitors were encouraged to go on a White Rabbit scavenger hunt in the exhibit gallery, try their hand at a Lewis Carroll word puzzle, and go mad as a guest at the table in our Mad Tea Party Photobooth. Additional items from the exhibit, which will not be in the exhibit until next year, were also on display for guests to explore.

Visitors also had the chance to participate in the Libraries’ ‘Adopt a Book’ program and donate to help preserve a fragile item from our rare book collection. Among the books “adopted” were a set of  rare miniature children’s books from the Association for Childhood Education International collection housed in Special Collections and University Archives.

Did you miss the frabjous festivities? Or, perhaps you want to relive all the excitement!  Visit our Flicker gallery with images from the opening reception. And thank you to everyone who made the evening such a success!


Frederick Douglass Celebrated


This week Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) continues the spotlight on Frederick Douglass, prominent Marylander and social reformer. Visit Hornbake Library to view new exhibits on display in conjunction with the dedication of the new Frederick Douglass plaza just outside Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.

The new Frederick Douglass plaza is located just steps away from the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives, where students can discover primary sources on his life and times. And there is lots more to explore in Hornbake Library this week!

A new exhibit, Frederick Douglass in Special Collections, features items from our rare books collection, historic manuscripts, and Maryland collection, including Douglass’ autobiographies and more.

Visitors can also walk though the 1st floor lobby to explore a panel exhibit on the life, scholarship, and legacy of Frederick Douglass.

Visit the Maryland Room to view artifacts from Wye House in Maryland, from the Archaeology in Annapolis project, a partnership between the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland and Historic Annapolis Foundation.

Also on display is a new acquisition to our Maryland Manuscripts collection- a general store ledger from Wye Landing, Maryland dated 1809-1812. It is an intriguing primary source on commerce and the role of African-Americans in the area, detailing items purchased and their prices, including notations indicating items purchased by slaves/servants for their masters.

It all leads up to the Frederick Douglass Plaza dedication on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Join us to celebrate the arrival of this inspirational Marylander and his ongoing legacy at the University of Maryland.



Alice 150 Featured Item of the Month: November

Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll: Selections from the Collection of August and Clare Imholtz, an exhibit highlighting the timelessness of Alice in Wonderland and the life and work of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), will showcase a new Alice related item every month.

In November, visit the Maryland Room  Gallery in Hornbake Library to view a collection of witty and whimsical cookbooks based upon characters and moments in Alice in Wonderland. Looking for some holiday cooking inspiration?  Learn the long sought-after recipes for “stuffed dormouse”, and “flamingo tongues”which can be found in Alice Eats Wonderland: An Irreverent Annotated Cookbook, written by August Imholtz himself.

View all the featured items of the month from Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll.

Halloween Comes to Special Collections

Looking for  devilishly entertaining rare books? Visit Hornbake Library this week to view two Halloween-inspired exhibits featuring our most frightful items from Special Collections and University Archives.

From A History of Serpents (1742), entomology bug models, and ghostly Nancy Drew novels to hauntingly illustrated tales by Edgar Allan Poe, these items will send a chill down your spine.

It’s all part of the Halloweek fun this week at the University of Maryland Libraries!

Looking for more scary items from Special Collections and University Archives? Ask a librarian in the Maryland Room how you can view more rare items like a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’ and books on ghosthunting in Maryland, or Katherine Anne Porter’s painted coffin.

Curator Pick: Favorite Item from the Alice 150 Exhibit

My favorite piece in the Alice 150 collection is a sweet white booklet, titled “Useful and Instructive Poetry”, written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll at the adolescent age of 13. What I find both endearing and fascinating is that in reading it, we can see themes that pop up again in Carroll’s writings as an adult.

For example, even as a child, Carroll took the issue of punctuality quite seriously ( a little too seriously if you ask me…then again I was huffing and puffing to get to a meeting this morning, so who am I to talk? I’m sure that from wherever he is now, Carroll is tsk-tsk-tsk-ing my lack of punctuality.)


We are all accustomed to hearing of the white rabbit, dashing to an event for which he fears he will be too late. But in this booklet Carroll illustrates what almost appears to be an early version of the white rabbit: a rather stout man rushing, and multiple versions of a grandfather clock. The charming, albeit somewhat puzzling illustration is also followed by a rather sermonizing poem on the importance of being on time for any and all occasions.

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Another motif that appears both in this volume and in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is Carroll playing around with the idea of “A Tale of a Tail.”

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I think what intrigues me most about “Useful and Instructive Poetry is that it opens a window for us to be able to view the themes and ideas that shaped Carroll as a child, so much so that they reappear in his most popular and endearing work.

What do you think about “Useful and Instructive Poetry”?

Explore this item and more works by Lewis Carroll in our Alice 150 Years and Counting exhibit, now open to the public in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland.


Brianne Phillips is a graduate student at the University of Maryland iSchool. She graduated from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, and loves nineteenth century literature . She currently works in Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library, as well as McKeldin Library. She is one of the Alice exhibit team interns who assisted with the creation of the ‘Alice 150 Years and Counting…The Legacy of Lewis Carroll’ exhibit.

Hornbake Goes Mad this Halloween

Join us on Friday, October 30 to celebrate the madness of Halloween at Hornbake. Enjoy free pizza, play games, enter the costume contest, and listen to a live reading of Lewis Carroll’s frightful poem “The Jabberwocky”!

The frabjous festivities will take place between 12pm-2pm in the 1st floor lobby of Hornbake Library. Follow us on twitter for more goulish details to come.

Looking for costume inspiration? Visit our Alice 150 Years and Counting… exhibit in Hornbake Library and explore the imaginative world of Wonderland. We hope to see plenty of Terp Mad Hatters, Cheshire Cats, and Queens of Hearts, and Alices haunting Hornbake!
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