Tag Archives: editions of frankenstein

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

Frankenstein 1831 Edition: Bentley’s “Standard Novels”

So, what are the “standard novels” referenced by the cut-and-pasted title page of the Eaton’s 1831 Frankenstein? In 1829, publishers Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley joined forces with a simple business plan: they acquired copyrights to popular three-volume novels, and then republished them in inexpensive, one-volume formats. According to Victorian Fiction: An Exhibition of Original Editions, this “Standard Novels” series, which began releasing volumes in 1831, “expanded the market of fiction” to include people who could not previously afford such books. 

Doctored page of the Eaton’s 1831 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

In some cases, Colburn and Bentley also asked for authorial revisions, or new material, so that they could claim to have the “most authoritative” versions of the texts at the time. Plus, to make these popular novels even more exciting, each of the volumes featured an engraved frontispiece, giving us the following iconic image of Victor Frankenstein running from his Creature.

Picture of a scared scientist and his creature

Frontispiece of the Eaton’s 1831 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

Besides Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was volume 9 in the series (along with the first part of Friedrich Schiller’s The Ghost Seer.) Other volumes of note include number 6, James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, and five reprints of Jane Austen novels. Although Colburn and Bentley’s partnership only lasted for three years, they published the first 19 volumes of the series together, and even after Colburn left the partnership, Bentley went on to publish 107 additional volumes, for a grand total of 126 volumes between 1831 and 1855. For the curious, a list of titles is here.

Sources Consulted

  • “Richard Bentley” in British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880. Eds. Patricia J. Anderson and Jonathan Rose. Vol. 106 in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991). Pages 39-52.
  • “Bentley’s Standard Novels” in Victorian Fiction: An Exhibition of Original Editions at 7 Albermarle Street, London, January to February 1947. Arranged by John Carter and Michael Sadleir. Published for the National Book League (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947). Page 11.

Unique editions of Frankenstein at the Eaton: 1831

Our 1831 edition (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley) is unique, as it has been “Frankensteined” in many ways. Of course, on the title page, our book describes itself as “revised, corrected, and illustrated with a new introduction, by the author.”

Title page of the 1831 edition of Frankenstein

Title page of the Eaton’s 1831 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

This is a reference to textual changes made both by William Godwin (Mary Shelley’s father), and Mary Shelley herself, which make the novel into a composite text.

More than this, the Eaton’s copy literally appears to have been cut up and re-bound. As shown below, one piece of publication information has been cut out from one title page, and pasted onto a new page in our re-built book.

Doctored page of the Eaton’s 1831 Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (From the holdings of Special Collections & University Archives, UCR Library, University of California, Riverside.)

Like our 1818 edition, this physical object – the artifactual book – is a treasure trove of Franken-history just waiting to be explored. For more info, come back again next week!

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.