Taming the Jabberwock: A Plain Redraft of Lewis Carroll’s 1883 Publishing Contract

From SSRN:


With the kind permission of the estate of Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll), this article reproduces Dodgson’s 1883 publishing contract for his “Alice in Wonderland” books and offers a plain-language redraft. The author found the original 1883 contract in an archive of Dodgson’s personal papers in County Surrey, England, during an academic visitorship. Besides providing the original contract and a full redraft, the article offers a step-by-step analysis of selected provisions, exploring the thinking and technique behind user-centered documents. Featured drafting techniques include improving navigability with informative headings and subheadings; eliminating legalese; using vertical lists to break up dense text; and more. The discussion and methods reflect principles found in leading texts by Kenneth Adams, Bryan Garner, Joseph Kimble, and Tina Stark. The article would be a suitable supplement to those and other texts.

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Suggested Citation: Cooney, Mark, Taming the Jabberwock: A Plain Redraft of Lewis Carroll’s 1883 Publishing Contract (October 11, 2020). Taming the Jabberwock: A Plain Redraft of Lewis Carroll’s 1883 Publishing Contract, 19 Scribes J. Legal Writing 55 (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3709451

Link to the rest at SSRN and thanks to C. for the tip.

PG notes that the complete paper is only 25 pages, substantially shorter than a great many things he sees at SSRN.

For those who are not familiar with SSRN (Social Science Research Network), here are the opening paragraphs of SSRN’s About SSRN page:

SSRN is an open-access online preprint community providing valuable services to leading academic schools and government institutions. Specializing primarily in social sciences, including economics, law, corporate governance, and humanities, SSRN is branching out in to other science disciplines providing opportunities for scholars to post their early research, collaborate on theories and discoveries, and get credit for their ideas before peer reviewed publication.

SSRN is instrumental as a starting point for PhD students, professors, and institutional faculty to post early-stage research, prior to publication in academic journals.

SSRN provides the online database of early scholarly research – a permanent and searchable online library – always available, worldwide. We make it simple for authors to post their working papers and abstracts. Academics and researchers can browse the SSRN data library and upload their own papers free of charge. Majority of papers can be downloaded from SSRN free of charge. Metrics on author rankings at a glance.


For those who note that Elsevier is not known for its open-access attitude towards scientific and related research documents, PG’s understanding is that, before agreeing to host SSRN on a permanent basis, Elsevier agreed to keep the organization operating on an open-access basis, continuing to accept and publish new working papers, on a continuing basis.

Although PG formerly worked as an executive for another major subsidiary of RELX, FKA Reed Elsevier, he has no inside access to the organization which allow him any inside insights into the agreement.