Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2004 Issue

Mark Burstein & Alice: a World of the Mind

The Bursteins: Pere, fils, et pètit-fils


By Bruce McKinney

About the time Arlo Guthrie was recording “Alice’s Restaurant,” Mark Burstein was honing his writing skills on his college senior thesis, writing about what would become his life’s passion – Lewis Carroll of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass fame. It is a passion he shares with his father, Sandor, a prolific collector generally and a very determined collector specifically of Carroll for many years. These days, Mark, the fiftyish father of a two-year-old, tends the private garden that is the world of Alice, alive and well these many years since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, writing under the penname Lewis Carroll, first created the book which lives on today as an industry that, like tin soldiers, marches across the intellectual landscape producing websites, auction events, conferences, magazines, books and arguments.

For the Burstein family it started innocently enough. We find, in an oft-told story, that the senior Burstein was introduced to Alice around 1928 by a kindergarten teacher who was appearing in a play as the White Rabbit. Because truth is stranger than most (but not this) fiction, an article in the San Francisco Examiner in the late 1970s brought the kindergarten teacher, then in her eighties, back to the surface when she read an account of Dr. Burstein’s imbroglio with Alice and identified herself as the inspiratrix of this passion play now in full bloom.

Like many serious conditions, the gestation period was long so it wasn’t until the first symptoms were evident in the son that the father developed the full-blown disease. Hence it was, in the otherwise bland 1970s, the disease came to blossom. If the son’s case is acute, the father’s case is chronic. For Mark this passion has been transforming. His home, his collections, and his avocation come together in the clear and precise focus— Lewis Carroll—and it makes for an interesting life.

Sandor, a collector of many things, took to collecting Carroll seriously more than 30 years ago. His interest would lead, in time, to his becoming president of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA – pronounced lasagna?), which is not to be confused with The Lewis Carroll Society of Canada which has not, and perhaps never will be, anything but physically connected to the United States—if only by a common boundary 3,000 measly miles long. These are two separate and distinct places with associations as different as ducks and dodos and let there be no doubt about it! The U.K., Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also raised the Alice flag, and the word is around that entire portion of the middle east, Africa and South America remain up for grabs. We digress.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions