Author Archives: Miranda Butler

FrankenLecture: A Tale of Two Frankensteins

The artifactual differences between the Eaton’s unique 1818 Frankenstein and unique 1831 Frankenstein, and  between our copies and other copies of the same editions, are fascinating, but why do these different versions of the book even exist? What textual changes did Mary Shelley make, and why do scholars think she made them? In this lecture for English 20C at the University of California, Riverside, PhD student and 200 Years of Frankenstein co-curator (and WhinyPantsFrank mastermind)  Miranda Butler tells “A Tale of Two Frankensteins.”

Click “Read More” on the YouTube description to jump to a specific topic within the lecture, or begin at timestamp 30:24 to focus on analyzing the textual differences.

Sources consulted:

  • Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus / Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ; edited by D.L. Macdonald & Kathleen Scherf. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999 [Eaton copy here].
  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Pennsylvania Electronic Edition, edited by Stewart Curran [available here].
  • Mellor, Anne K. “Revisiting Frankenstein” in Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York: Metheun, 1988. pp. 170-176 [available here].
  • Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. The Original Frankenstein, edited by Charles E. Robinson. New York: Vintage Books, 2009. More info about the book can be found [here] and [here].
  • Scott, Walter. “Remarks on Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus; a novel” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, no. XII, vol. ii (March 1818). pp. 613-620 [available here].
  • Vint, Sherryl. Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
  • Sousanis, Nick. Unflattening. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2015.
  • Mersereau, Dennis. “Facts about the Year without a Summer” [available here].

You can read Miranda’s musings on Frankenstein and other matters on her blog

Contemporary Reviews of Frankenstein – Blackwood’s

One of the earliest reviews of Frankenstein was written by Sir Walter Scott for Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1818. Overall, Scott wrote that the “author’s original genius” impressed him (p. 613). However, he was unsure how to describe the “peculiar” genre, or, as he called it, “species” of the novel.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine

Now in the public domain, the complete issue of Blackwood’s that contains the first review of Frankenstein is available digitally via HathiTrust.org. The University of California, Riverside Library also holds a copy of this volume, available here.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “science-fiction” would not appear until 1851, and many scholars argue that it would not be popularized until the late 1920s. Understandably, then, Scott struggled to describe the “philosophical and refined use of the supernatural” in Frankenstein (p. 613). He explains that in the novel, “the laws of nature are represented as altered … in order to shew the probable effect [of] the supposed miracles” and “open up new channels of thought” (p. 614). Sound familiar? It’s as if Scott knew that almost 200 years later, Sherryl Vint’s 2014 book, Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed, would concede that science fiction is difficult to define. However, like Scott, Vint concludes that SF can be viewed as “a cultural mode that struggles with the implications of discoveries in science and technology for human social lives and philosophical conceptions.”

WORKS CONSULTED:

  • Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus / Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ; edited by D.L. Macdonald & Kathleen Scherf. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999, pp. 300-306. [Eaton copy here.]
  • Scott, Walter. “Remarks on Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus; a novel” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, no. XII, vol. ii (March 1818). pp. 613-620. Original from the University of California Library, and available digitally via HathiTrust.org.
  • “Science Fiction” definition A1 in The Oxford English Dictionary Online. From the Oxford English Dictionary 3rd edition, March 2014. Web. 13 April 2017.
  • Vint, Sherryl. Science Fiction: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014. Kindle Edition, loc. 110. [Or, a physical copy is available at the Eaton, here.]

Unique Editions of Frankenstein at the Eaton: 1818

What makes the Eaton’s Frankensteins unique historical objects? Our 1818 edition (London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones) contains a personal annotation written in Pitman’s shorthand — a phonetic writing method invented in 1837 and popularized throughout the nineteenth century.

Preface of the Eaton’s 1818 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

Additionally, though the 1818 Frankenstein was published in London and now is held in Riverside, all three volumes contain embossed library stamps from the “Adelaide Circulating Library,” suggesting that our copy also was held, for a time, in Australia.

Embossed stamp in the Eaton’s 1818 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

As we build our 200 Years of Frankenstein exhibit, we look forward to tracing these details, which reveal the material life of our books over the past 200 years.

 

The FrankenBlog Intro

Welcome to the FrankenBlog. In 1816 Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein, and in 1818 it was first published. This blog will commemorate some of the key dates in the writing of the work, talk about events to commemorate it, link to interesting Frankenstein bicentennial websites, and post Frankenstein images from the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy. All of this will build to our 2018 exhibit on 200 Years of Frankenstein!