October 7, 2008

Frankenstein Day

Today, October 7, 2008, is Frankenstein Day at the prestigious Bodleian Library of Oxford University, England.

The event celebrates the launching of The Original Frankenstein, a new and revolutionary edition of the novel edited by Charles E. Robinson. Manuscript pages in Mary Shelley’s own hand will be displayed (and a lock of her hair, too), and Mr. Robinson and guest Brian Aldiss, author of Frankenstein Unbound, will be speaking.

Charles E. Robinson, a Professor of English at the University of Delaware, is one of the premier scholars of Frankenstein, having meticulously studied the original Mary Shelley manuscript, cross-referencing contemporary accounts and Mary’s correspondence to determine the process and order of the writing of various drafts of the novel and the corrections and editing performed on it by Mary’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. Robinson’s groundbreaking research yielded a book, The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition of Mary Shelley’s Manuscript Novel, 1816-17, in 1996.

Now, with The Original Frankenstein, Robinson has undertaken to reassemble Mary’s original manuscript, the first version as written in 1817, entirely in her own hand, before her husband Percy began his editorial interventions and annotations.

The result, according to an Oxford University communiqué, is “a more rapidly paced novel… we hear Mary’s genuine voice which sounds to us more modern, more immediately colloquial than her husband’s learned, more polished style.

Mary Shelley’s authorship has always been questioned to some degree, starting with the book’s publication in 1818, author anonymous, but quickly attributed to Percy by some reviewers. Last year, John Lauritsen’s The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein controversially argued for Percy’s blanket authorship, reducing Mary’s contribution to that of a mere secretary. With The Original Frankenstein, editor Robinson presents both the published version and the reconstructed original manuscript to demonstrate that Frankenstein was, indeed, Mary’s book.

The Original Frankenstein is available directly from the Bodleian Book Shop.

Here is the announcement page for Frankenstein Day.

With thanks to Susan Tyler Hitchcock of Monster Sightings for the heads up.

The Great Frankenstein Controversy
Happy Birthday, Mary Shelley


Max the drunken severed head said...

The new edition of Mary Shelley's book will be a must-have for the serious Franken-phile!

Pierre Fournier said...

Indeed. And may I suggest getting your hands on it right now... Not saying this is a surefire collector's item, but Mr. Robinson's previous Frankenstein book (mentioned in the post), published only 12 years ago, currently goes for $800 and up. Yikes.

Wich2 said...

Thanks for the heads up, Pierre.

It's nice to see Mother Mary get her due.

-Craig W.

P.S.- But what do I know? I still believe that William Shakespeare wrote Shekespeare's plays!

Bubbashelby said...

Fascinating. Here I am finishing up reading Frankenstein for the first time in my life...only to find out I need to read a "new" version to get the real deal lol!

Pierre Fournier said...

Bubbashelby: You are probably reading the so-called "definitive" edition from 1831. There were two previous and somewhat different versions in 1818 and 1823.

I think the new "original" version will be interesting to people who have already read the book. It is in comparing the editions that it becomes interesting.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of the 1823 version. More info, please.

Rachel said...

I don't think getting a copy of this book is going to prove very easy - I did a search on amazon and came up empty handed - that is quite a rare thing to happen.