January 12, 2014
Now THIS is what the web was created for! I’m not kidding. Recently, on Halloween last, the existing manuscript of Frankenstein was made freely available online. That’s all of Mary Shelley’s original notebooks, the drafts and copies in her own hand. Every page up for scrutiny, accompanied by corresponding transcription, and you can toggle to highlight Mary’s handwriting or Percy Shelley’s annotations and editing. Until two months ago, consulting these materials would have required extensive travel in England and the United States and very privileged access to scattered institutions. Now, these original documents are accessible for study on your personal computer or tablet.
This remarkable initiative required generous funding — in large part by America’s National Endowment for the Humanities — and the concerted efforts of several institutions, notably Oxford’s Bodleian Library and the New York Public Library. The project’s impressive Advisory Board and tech experts include the contribution of the ever-eminent Charles E. Robinson, author of The Frankenstein Notebooks, who provides an invaluable introduction and a Frankenstein chronology.
Frankenstein is only the first offering in a proposed web-based archive of the entire works of “England’s First Family of Writers”, namely Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary’s parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and John Goodwin.
It speaks to the enduring importance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that it should be the first work of the Shelley-Godwin Archives to be published online. The study of Frankenstein has taken an astonishing leap forward.