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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!

Who is @WhinyPantsFrank?

Have you ever noticed that Victor Frankenstein seems a bit whiny? Perhaps a tad querulous and fretful? Self-absorbed and self-pitying? Peevish?  Petulant?  Plaintive? Given to kvetching, moaning, bitching, and complaining?

You’re not alone. Whether you’re in a book club, school class, or special collections library, it’s impossible not to notice that he repeats words like “wretched” and “miserable” consistently throughout the novel. It’s easy to attribute Victor’s constant complaining to immaturity or hubris, but in Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, she says that her intention really was to to create a character who could not escape the horrors of his own accomplishment.* As a humorous addition to the FrankenBlog, we have created the Twitter account @whinypantsfrank, which places images of the “whiniest” passages from Shelley’s novel alongside humorous Tweets that highlight Victor’s misery. Click here to follow Whiny Frankenstein!

*See Mary Shelley’s 1831 introduction in Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus / Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ; edited by D.L. Macdonald & Kathleen Scherf. Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999), page 357.  [Eaton copy here]

Editions of Frankenstein – Part II

Scholars D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf argue that even Mary Shelley’s first edition of Frankenstein, published in 1818, was “heavily influenced by [her] husband” in terms of both style and ideas. Furthermore, the second edition, released in 1823, was prepared by Mary’s father William Godwin, “without any participation from the author.” Mary Shelley accepted most of Godwin’s minor edits when she herself revised the book for its 1831 third edition, and she also implemented large-scale changes that completely alter the message of the novel. Anne K. Mellor argues that in 1818, Shelley grants Victor the free will to abandon his pursuit of creating life at any point; whereas in 1831, “he is a pawn of forces beyond his knowledge or control.” For this reason, several scholars have concluded  that the 1831 edition is “largely a different book from the 1818 edition.”


  • “A Note on the Text,” in Frankenstein: the 1818 text, edited by D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf (Ontario: Broadview Press, 1999).
  • “A Note on the Text,” in Frankenstein, edited with an introduction and notes by Maurice Hindle (New York: Penguin Books, 2003).
  • Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters (New York: Routledge, 1989), page 171.
Picture of a scared scientist and his creature

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

Editions of Frankenstein – Part I

The Eaton collection’s extensive archive contains 187 items that feature “Frankenstein” in the title. Though some of these are adaptations, over 50 of them claim to contain Mary Shelley’s original work. But what counts as “original work,” anyway? The Eaton has both a first edition 1818 text, pictured below, originally published in three volumes, and an original 1831 text (third edition), which is printed in a single book. Although scholars have long considered the 1831 text to be authoritative, since Mary Shelley edited it herself, this version also maintains over 100 small changes made by Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin. What are these changes? Why do they matter? Come back next week for the newest FrankenBlog post!

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 II

In Fall 2018, the Eaton Collection will open its 200 Years of Frankenstein exhibit, which will showcase Mary Shelley’s original work, and also trace its legacy as other voices reimagined the story through new technologies and media forms. The exhibit will contain rare copies of both the first edition 1818 Frankenstein  in three volumes, and the third edition, which Mary Shelley substantially revised and re-released in 1831. Our particular copies are especially interesting, as unique identifiers like Australian watermarks and nineteenth-century shorthand notes tell the tale not only of the story’s history, but of the journey of physical objects that have been read by many eyes and held by many hands, as the books have crossed continents and spanned centuries.

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.