The Mystery of the Publication Date of Alice in Wonderland in Gregg Shorthand.

Some misguided book expert decided that Alice In Wonderland in Gregg Shorthand was published in 1915. That is absolutely incorrect. This conclusion was based on the printers code “D83” found on the verso of the title page. Most booksellers list the Pre-Anniversary version of Alice in Wonderland as a 1915 publication.  There is considerable evidence that indicates this book came out between March and May 1919.

Here is some of the evidence: The Publishers Weekly Annual July Textbook List did not list this title in the Gregg Shorthand section until 1919. This title did not appear on the 1918 July Publishers Weekly Textbook List or any earlier Publishers Weekly List.

This book was not listed on a book list page in any Gregg publication until 1919. Many Gregg books listed all available Gregg novels in the back section.

The most conclusive evidence of the 1919 publication date is found in “Additional Illinois Official List of Text Books and Prices” (issued in 1919, printed in early 1920). This list contains books that the Illinois Department of Public Instruction added to their official book list after their 1918 list came out. 13 new Gregg Shorthand books, including Alice in Wonderland, were on the list. These new books were all filed with the Illinois Department of Instruction on 5-28-1919. The other 12 Gregg Books were published between December 1918 and April 1919. This was determined from copyright records and Gregg book ads for new releases.

What makes it difficult to determine the publication date of this book is that it was never copyrighted. Gregg Shorthand novels based on English classics were not eligible for copyright in the early part of the past century. That is because the copyright belonged to the original novel, not the shorthand version. This book was considered a translation or derivative work of Alice in Wonderland, which entered the public domain in 1908.

Furthermore, if a book was originally published in the United States prior to 1989 without a valid copyright notice appearing on the copyright page, that book immediately entered the public domain upon publication. (There are a few exceptions to that rule that do not apply to this book.) There is no copyright notice in this book or in any other Gregg Shorthand novels.

Other evidence that Alice in Wonderland was not published in 1915 is found in the actual Shorthand itself. If Alice were published in 1915, the Shorthand plates would have conformed to the 1902 Gregg Shorthand Manual. In June 1916, an extensively revised Gregg Shorthand Manual replaced the 1902 Gregg Shorthand Manual. The Shorthand in Alice in Wonderland matches the 1916 Gregg Manual, not the 1902 Gregg Manual. For example, the word “believe” appears several times in this book and is written in shorthand as “be.” Prior to the publication of the 1916 Gregg Manual, “believe” was written as “ble” in Gregg Shorthand. The word “Australia,” which appears in Chapter 1, uses the detached “os” for the “Austra” prefix. This prefix was introduced in the 1916 Gregg Manual.

After the Gregg Shorthand 1929 Manual was published, this 1919 hardback version of “Alice in Wonderland” continued to be published until 1931. However, the 1916 shorthand plates in this 1919 edition did not follow the rules of the 1929 Gregg Shorthand Manual.

Sometime between July and September 1931, a revised paperback edition of Alice in Wonderland was published in Gregg Shorthand. This 1931 paperback book was much larger than the 1919 hardback. The shorthand plates were also larger, which made for easier reading when compared to the tiny plates in the 1919 hardback. Unlike revisions of shorter Gregg Shorthand novels, it was not practical to completely rewrite 154 pages of shorthand plates in the 1919 edition of Alice In Wonderland to conform to the 1929 Gregg Shorthand Manual. Instead of a full rewrite, Georgie Gregg made minor revisions to her 1919 shorthand plates, while carefully keeping all of the line endings, page endings, and pictures in the exact same position. On each page, there are a few shorthand words that were carefully changed to conform to the 1929 manual. In some instances, the Shorthand does not quite conform to the 1929 manual.

It is interesting to note that the selling price for the 1919 edition of Alice in Wonderland in Gregg Shorthand has skyrocketed in the past few years. There are claims by booksellers that this book is very rare. That not true. A new copy shows up on eBay almost every week. The top price currently found for a copy of the 1919 hardback edition listed with an online bookseller is $380 USD. There are other copies listed with prices ranging from $150 to $275 USD. It should be noted that these highly overpriced copies are rarely being purchased. You can pick up a good copy of this 1919 hardback edition on eBay for $50 to $75 USD.

The 1931 edition is actually much rarer than the 1919 edition. The 1919 hardback has sturdy binding and was made to last. The 1931 paperback edition has flimsy binding. The cover is guaranteed to come off and the pages will easily fall out. There are probably fewer copies of the 1931 edition around. The 1931 edition rarely shows up on eBay and is not often listed with online booksellers. The few copies of the 1931 edition that are listed sell for $120 to $175 USD. At these prices, they are rarely being purchased.

5 years ago, both editions were being sold online for $40 to $60. How the price got so inflated is a bigger mystery than the publication date.

(by Paul for
group greggshorthand)


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4 comments Add yours
  1. Someone just listed the 1919 Alice in Wonderland for 350 USD. That is way too expensive. You can download the book for free on the Internet Archive Library site. Or you can buy a decent copy almost any week on eBay if you know how to bid and win.

  2. Don't forget, though, that the Alice book appeals to collectors of Alice-related publications, not just to collectors of shorthand. That doubles its appeal in the marketplace, at least. $350 is definitely over the top, but if I were an Alice aficionado, and it were a pristine copy, perhaps . . . By the way, I have two copies of the hard-bound Alice, and would gladly sell one for $350 if anyone is interested . . .

  3. There are copies of the 1919 Alice sitting on Abe, amazon, etc. that are over 150 USD No one is buying them. I have multiple copies of the 1919 and 1931 editions. If I was motivated to bid on eBay or buy them online, I could fill my bookshelves with copies of the 1919 book. It was printed for 12 years. Thousands of copies were sold. Not a week goes by without a copy of that book listed on eBay. I have seen them sell for 50 or 60 bucks. It will be interesting to see if anyone is foolish enough to pay 350 USD on eBay for this "rare" book. There are other Gregg Novels that are extremely rare. Raleigh Rainbows, Xmas Carol 1931, and Hamlet 1931 are very hard to find.

    Could anyone explain to me why anyone would want a copy of Alice in pre-Anniversary shorthand for their Alice collection if they couldn't even read a single word in it? I suspect that many who buy these books are flipping them.

  4. I know people who collect Harry Potter books in the various language translations (including Welsh and Latin), even though they don't read those languages. Collectors are, after all, well . . . collectors. And if your goal is to have every possible translation and version of "Alice", then the Gregg edition has to factor in.

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