1764 The Castle of Otranto: Horace Walpole

1764 The Castle of Otranto: Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto is generally recognised as the first Gothic novel. 

The first edition was published anonymously in 1764, and purported to be based on a sixteenth century manuscript from Naples. It was quickly followed by a second edition, published by William Bathoe and Thomas Lowndes in London in 1765 which contained a preface by the author, acknowledging his authorship and explaining the genesis of the book. It starts “ The favourable manner in which this little piece has been received by the public, calls upon the author to explain the grounds on which he composed it.” Sadly for Walpole, the critics, once the authorship had been revealed, changed their minds and dismissed the book as romantic fiction.

I particularly like the Jeffrey’s edition of 1796, which is the first edition to contain coloured illustrations. An edition with black and white illustrations was also published in that year by Jeffrey. The coloured picture above is the frontispiece from the Jeffrey edition. 

My copy of the Jeffrey edition of 1786 of The Castle of Otranto with the coloured illustrations is on display in the Dark Imaginings exhibition at the University of Melbourne. The title page is shown below.

Title page from the 1796 edition of The Castle of Otranto


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