On this day, January 1, in 1818, Frankenstein was first published, anonymously, with a short introduction by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The book appeared in a so-called “triple-decker” format, a novel offered in three slim volumes, from Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, of London. Though the initial run of just 500 copies sold briskly, there were no additional copies printed, perhaps because of the book’s notoriety. Critics were generally harsh, but the book worked its extraordinary and immediate magic, and captured the public’s imagination.
A French translation appeared in 1821, and Mary’s father, William Godwin, rushed a new English edition into print in 1823 to capitalize on the sudden popularity of theatrical adaptations. In 1831, a re-worked edition, with frontispiece illustrations by Holst and Chevalier, became the “definitve” version of the book, the one that has been kept in print ever since, in countless editions the world over.
In the photograph above (by Irfan Khan in the LATimes), scholar George Slusser holds up a very rare copy of the first edition.