Description[Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley]. Frankenstein. Or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. First edition. Three Volumes. 12mo. xii, 181, [1, blank]; [ii], 156; [ii], 192 pages; lacking half-titles and advertisements. Later brown morocco, single ruled in gilt, spine decorated in gilt with five raised bands, gilt roll to edges. Corners somewhat rubbed, minor edgewear, joints just starting. Inner dentelles gilt, marbled endpapers; front free endpaper somewhat creased, light pencil notations (some partially effaced) to front free endpaper verso and rear free endpaper verso. Internally clean and tight, all edges trimmed and gilt; margins wide, particularly for a rebound copy, minor intermittent foxing and soiling but chiefly to margins, minor wear to gilt on edges, toned stain to pages 176- of Volume I and pages 91-95 of Volume III affecting text. Housed together in bright red cloth clamshell case backed in red morocco, spine lettered in gilt. Very good.
A beautiful first edition of the first science-fiction novel, coming to life one faithful night in the Villa Diodati. The Villa was Byron's escape along Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where he, the soon-to-wed Shelleys, John Polidori, and Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, passed three days during the "Year Without a Summer" in 1816. The cold and rain kept the group sequestered in the house, keeping warm by the fire and challenging each other to craft new and thrilling horror stories.
From the gloom and shadows of this evening would be be born the beginnings of Byron's unfinished vampire tale, Polidori's The Vampire (inspired by Byron's Fragment), and Frankenstein. Though at first the response to a friendly writing challenge, Mary went on to expand and develop the story extensively with insight from her husband, examining themes of loss, defying nature, guilt, and parental guidance, that played a significant role in her own life. Both the story and the preface of the first edition were published anonymously, though Mary was credited as the author in the second edition and she attributed the first edition Preface to Percy in her introduction for the Bentley's Standard Novel edition (1831).
Rare that an evening of fireside ghost stories would go on to birth a classic of both the science fiction and horror genre, rarer still that it was chiefly crafted at the hand of a young woman, a legacy which endures and defines classic literature to this day. "Without abandoning the Gothic, Frankenstein goes beyond the trapping of the popular horror tale to probe the darkest cave of them all, the human mind" (Barron).
Barron, Horror, 1-97 (First Purchase title); Bleiler (1990), 2019; Lyles B1a; Summers, page 330; Wolff 6280. From the Gary Munson Collection
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