4 December 2009
[SHELLEY, Mary Wollstonecraft (1797-1851)]. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1818.
3 volumes bound in one, 12o (160 x 103 mm). (Lacks half-titles and advertisements.) Modern brown morocco by Zaehnsdorf.
FIRST EDITION OF THE GREATEST 19TH-CENTURY TALE OF TERROR, begun in Geneva when the author was less than nineteen and completed in Marlow. Suggested sources for Mary Shelley's story about the artificial creation of a human being are Godwin's novels, Madame de Genlis' Pygmalion et Galatée, and not least Milton's Paradise Lost. There were also non-literary precedents in 18th-century France which Polidori and Shelley may have discussed in the Villa Diodati in 1816. As Mary Shelley's introduction to the third edition of 1831 relates, the party in the villa also read ghost stories, translated from German into French, during the "wet, ungenial summer", and it was Byron who famously proposed that "'We will each write a ghost story.'" However, the plot of Frankenstein only took shape after Mary had experienced a hideous dream, the outcome of a conversation the evening before about live vermicelli, galvanism and the re-animation of corpses. Although her literary fame rests on this one novel, and the Abinger manuscripts make Shelley's editorial role clear, Frankenstein is one of very few tales which have achieved the same mythic cultural status as Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe. Ashley V, 29; Lyles B1a; Tinker 1881; Wolff 6280.
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