Tag Archives: 1818

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.”


  • 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.


Welcome to the FrankenBlog III

This FrankenBlog, in true Franken-prefix fashion, brings together many stories — how Special Collections libraries come to know their objects and create exhibits, how creative works make their way into our cultural consciousness, and how people from all different backgrounds, living in all different places, come together to celebrate literature that sparks something special in its readers – something so special that a work can be as thought-provoking today as it was 200 years ago. Because there are hundreds of stories you can tell from as rich a collection of Frankenstein material as lives in the Eaton, we don’t know yet which one we’ll explore. Join us as we assemble the body and bring it to life!

Welcome to the FrankenBlog I

This blog is a year-and-a-half-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, originally published in 1818. Shelley’s novel is not only a foundational work of science fiction literature, but also an important cultural touchstone for many genres, including Romanticism, Gothic, horror, and more. As one of the world’s richest and deepest collections of science fiction, fantasy, horror, utopian literature and related genres, the Eaton Collection is a perfect home and context for such a complex and influential novel. Like its famous monster, Frankenstein is a book written in many forms, containing many parts, and combining many seemingly disparate elements – and in the end it tells one unforgettable story. The book has never been out of print since it was published, and has spawned innumerable other creative works and interpretations, including films and television shows, comics and graphic novels, two and three dimensional art, internet memes, and popular slang.

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!