1818 Frankenstein: Mary Shelley

1818 Frankenstein: Mary Shelley


2018 was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s landmark novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, to give it the full title, which had been conceived and started at the famous Villa Diodati in June 1816, when Mary Shelley was 18 years old.

Frankenstein was the result of a competitive game involving Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori, Bryon’s friend and doctor, after they had been reading German Gothic stories during a few days of rain by Lake Geneva.
The first edition was published anonymously in three volumes on 1st January 1818 with a preface written by Percy Shelley. A second edition appeared in two volumes in August 1822, which named Mary Shelley as the author on the title page. The first single volume edition appeared in October 1831, this time with a new preface written by Mary Shelley, and with the text significantly revised by the author. Most subsequent editions used the text from this revised edition of 1831.

In many ways all three of these editions are highly desirable, although the first edition is now very scarce (only 500 copies were printed) and very expensive. The 1831 single volume edition, published by Colburn and Bentley, is very attractive to collectors as it has Mary Shelley’s preface together with an iconic frontispiece designed by Theodor von Holst. This is the picture shown below.

Frankenstein has been reprinted many times over the last 200 years and has been the inspiration for many film, television and stage portrayals of the monster, most famously by Boris Karloff in the film which was released in 1931, 100 years after the publication of the Colburn and Bentley edition.

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