The History of the Jabberwock - Established February 1888.

One of the Oldest High School Papers in the United States

/assets/jwok_images/jwok1.jpgThe seniors at GLS reserved the right to make all the important decisions for the school. One day in Fourth Class algebra, Sybil Collar, daughter of Headmaster William Coe Collar of The Roxbury Latin School, passed a note to Mabel Hay Barrows which read, “I’ve had an inspiration. Let’s have a class paper.”

The name Jabberwock was picked from a list Abbie Farwell Brown submitted; taken from “Jabberwocky”, the famous nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll in “Through the Looking Glass”. She recalled in February 1908, for The Jabberwock’s Twentieth Anniversary Issue, “I remember well what an exciting meeting that was wherein the new paper was to be named. Different girls brought in lists of titles which seemed suitable, and they were all written on the blackboard. It is one of the proudest recollections of my life that the name Jabberwock was on the list which I submitted, and was voted by the class to be the best one. I was a fond friend of “Alice” and knew her chronicle by heart.”

The members of the class of 1891 threw themselves into publishing the magazine despite the fact that they had never published anything before. Undaunted, Abbie Farwell Brown would quickly become the Jabberwock’s heart and soul and was affectionately referred to as his godmother. Mabel Barrows enlisted her parents help. Samuel J. Barrows, editor of The Christian Register, and his wife Isabelle, associate editor, gave lessons in copy revision and proof reading.

The first Editresses of The Jabberwock: Left to Right: Sybil Collar, Abbie Farwell Brown and Mabel Barrows.
Source: Abbie Farwell Brown Papers Schlesinger Library circa: 1888.

A flyer was sent to fellow students:

The Jabberwock
A New School Paper

Conducted by the Fourth Class of the Girls’ Latin School, will appear in February. It will contain spicy editorials, pithy poems, interesting anecdotes and sketches, notes from Girls’ Latin School and its brother schools, home and foreign correspondence, in short, all goes to make up a readable and entertaining paper.
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Collar said, “Stories of mine, circulated in manuscript…enlivened study periods, but were not even considered when we got down to the brass tacks of publishing. Abbie’s poems found an immediate place…” Finally, the class paper was ready. The meaning of Jabberwock was still a mystery. The first three Editresses, Virginia Holbrook, Abbie Brown, and Mabel Barrows wrote Lewis Carroll in London asking for an explanation of, and seeking permission to use, the name. They waited for a reply as long as they could and then went forward with printing. The first Jabberwocks were barely off the presses on Valentine’s Day, when the girls a day or two later were handed the following letter at recess:

Charles L. Dodgson - (Pen name Lewis Carroll)

29 Bedford Street

Covent Garden, London

6 February 1888

“Mr. Lewis Carroll has much pleasure giving the Editresses of the proposed magazine permission to use the title they hoped for. He finds the Anglo-Saxon word “wocer” or “wocor” signifies “offspring”
or “fruit“. Taking Jabber in its ordinary acceptation of “excited and voluble discussion”, whether this phrase will have an application to the projected periodical, will be for future historians of
American literature to decide. Mr. Carroll wishes all success with the forthcoming magazine.”

The Jabberwock was published monthly from September through June beginning in February 1888 “by the fourth class ‘91 of the Girls’ Latin School Boston". The first editorial stated, “We would like our subscribers to know that it is purely for their sakes that this paper is published in English, were it for ourselves only, we should of course print in Latin…”

Did you know in 2009, Lewis Carroll’s books were the top two most expensive sales of young adult books?

1. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass and And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll - $14,377

First London editions in two volumes (1866 & 1872). Illustrated by John Tenniel and bound in red morocco with a slipcase.

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - $9,500

First edition copy from 1866 published by D. Appleton and Co.

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