What would Lewis Carroll have thought of his spontaneous outpourings – let loose one happy day nearly 150 years ago during a trip up the River Thames in Oxford with a boatload of girls – being turned into a film using all the latest special effects that modern technology can produce?

Probably he would have loved it – though he almost certainly would have insisted on keeping control over every detail of its production, just as he did with the publication of the original book.

The latest film of Alice in Wonderland (reviewed on the next page), which will have its world premiere tomorrow, has Oxfordshire written all over it: not only did Lewis Carroll conceive it on that Golden Afternoon of July 4, 1862 – when his notions “lived and died like summer gnats”, as the real Alice was to say much later in life – but also the film’s director Tim Burton lives in Sutton Courtenay with his wife Helena Bonham Carter – who acts the Queen of Hearts in the new film. Their house is near the grave of Ms Bonham Carter’s ancestor, prime minister Asquith.

In the case of the book, he found a publisher, Macmillan, in 1863, for Alice’s Adventures Underground (as the original manuscript was called), but though far from rich, he paid all the production costs himself and thereby kept control of every page. He knew precisely what he wanted and had trial pages printed in Oxford. He also discovered his own limitations, namely that he could not draw the pictures – which led him to engage Punch cartoonist John Tenniel.

In his diary for July 2, 1863, he noted that he had “received from Mr Combe a second trial page, larger, for Alice’s Adventures.” Thomas Combe was the director of Oxford University Press who had had the church of St Barnabas built in Jericho and, incidentally, commissioned Holman Hunt’s painting The Light of the World, which now hangs in Keble College Chapel.

Lewis Carroll was of course a pseudonym, the part-Latinised reversal of the first two names of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), a Maths don at Christ Church particularly interested in logic, algebra, and geometry. He was intrigued by light, space and time – and therefore by early photography – and would, I think, have been equally intrigued by the modern electronic revolution – particularly as it manifests itself in the world of film, with all its possibilities for playing around with perception.

But the children’s author and the don kept his two personae separate: letters addressed to Carroll at Christ Church were returned to sender – though he did honour Queen Victoria, who after reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had requested a copy of his next book, by sending her a treatise on algebra.

“I mark this day with a white stone,” (his code for a day of special significance) wrote Dodgson in his diary on the evening of the Golden Afternoon when he and his friend the Rev Robinson Duckworth, together with the three daughters of Dean Liddell of Christ Church, Lorina, Edith and Alice (11), had taken their trip on the river from Christ Church to Godstow. “Tell us a story Alice had cried,” and so the “interminable fairy tale” (as Dodgson himself called it) was born. That evening she said: “There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought,” and the very next day he had mapped out the headings.

In 1863, there was some sort of rift with the Liddell family, which has been the cause of much controversy ever since. Certainly Dodgson, a Church of England dean, was wracked by “unholy thoughts”; certainly he took pictures of little girls in the nude (only four of which survive), some at his studio in Badcocks Yard in St Aldates and some, later, in his studio on the roof of Christ Church, but most scholars agree that he sinned only in thought.

Many of the Alice tales refer to Oxford characters. For instance, Ruskin is parodied as the man who taught “drawling, stretching, and fainting in coils”. In fact Alice herself was an accomplished artist as anyone may ascertain by visiting the church of St Frideswide in Botley Road, where there is a woodcarving by her depicting St Frideswide sailing down the River Thames to found her nunnery on the land where Christ Church stands today.

On that Golden Afternoon, Alice interrupted “not more than once a minute”. For my part I shall try not to write about her more than once a year – which is difficult.