Frankenstein : or, The Modern Prometheus

Dublin Core


Frankenstein : or, The Modern Prometheus


British, Monster, Illustrated Edition, Horror, Fiction, Science Fiction, Gothic, 1800s, Romantic Movement, Novel.


Originally printed in a series of three volumes in 1818, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a fictional tale of a scientist, named Victor Frankenstein, who creates life by using a mixture of science and alchemy. The unnamed creature flees from his creator and he is met with hostility and hatred from humans in the area. The creature is ultimately seen as a monster and persecuted. The monster has the singular goal of being accepted and loved by others, ideally a reflection of himself. The book relies on an extended metaphor of Victor Frankenstein playing the role of God, and by extension, the monster serves to play the role of the first man in the Book of Genesis, Adam.

There are major differences between the 1818 edition and 1831 edition. In the 1831, Mary Shelley had heavily revised the book. The two main differences are Elizabeth’s character in the story and her letter to Victor when he is away for college. In the 1818 edition, Elizabeth is Victor Frankenstein’s cousin. She is Victor’s father sister’s daughter. In 1831, Elizabeth was adopted in Lake Como in Italy. Elizabeth letter starts differently in each edition.

In this edition, a second story is seeded into the bindings. The second story is called The Ghost-Seer, written by Friedrich Schiller, a German author. This printing of The Ghost-Seer is the first of multiple volumes set that placed together, contain the entire text. The story shares many of the same themes as Frankenstein in that it uses religion and necromancy in the presentation of the plot. This male author's work is also considered to be Gothic Literature, and its presented along-side Shelley's to play off the themes present in the prior novel. This technique of adding a shorter portion of a book into the biding was a way for publishers to sell books in the early 1800s, as it worked as a sort of advertising.

Mary Shelley began writing this story when she was at the age of 18. Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England. Her maiden name before she was married was Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. When she has discovered her father’s enormous library, she discovered her creativity in writing. She met Percy Bysshe Shelley, a student of her father. They fell in love and fled from her home with her step-sister Jane (Claire) Clairmont. In the summer of 1816, Mary, Percy and Jane were in Geneva, Switzerland with Lord Byron and John Polidori. As guests of Lord Byron, they stayed indoors talking about the supernatural and science. Lord Byron challenged them to write the best horror story after they read Fantasmagoriana, a book about German ghost stories. When Mary Shelley fell asleep that night, she had a nightmare. There was a man kneeling next to a giant creature figure that he created. This inspired her story, Frankenstein.

Today, Frankenstein is used as an example of Gothic literature, as it coincides with the time of this artistic movement and displays many of the traits involved with that writing style. Shelley is a prominent English author and helped the emergence of other woman writers as the field in the early 1800s was extremely male dominated. This illustrated edition of the novel includes another story titles The Ghost Seer. The story of Frankenstein has been adapted into multiple plays, movies and TV shows. The importance of this novel in the collection stands for many reasons, as Frankenstein has become a cultural symbol in the modern world, written by a woman when there were few in the field, and as a conduit to learn about Gothic Literature.

This edition contains two interesting illustrations at the beginning of the volume. The first picture has Victor Frankenstein and the creature in it. The creature does not look how Mary Shelley describes it in her story. It looks more human. Victor looks different compared to the next illustration. It is as if the experiment has made him deranged. Victor seems as if he is running away from the creature. The second picture has Victor and Elizabeth. It looks like Victor is heading out, but Elizabeth is holding on to him. I assume Elizabeth does not want Victor to go. There is a square dark spot around the picture. The dark spot is the ink from the previous page passing through this page. The illustrations are printed. The artist of the illustrations drew on a metal sheet and pressed the metal sheet into the pages. The book is often closed so the ink from the pictures would leave a stain into the next page as time goes by. There are dark spots on the page. It shows that the page is wearing out since it was made in the 1830s. The font in the illustrated Frontispiece is different from the whole page. It is in cursive. The illustrative title page also uses capital letters in the font slab serif. Each chapter has a small letter in the bottom center and the page number on the top right.

Source: Butler, Marilyn. Appendix B. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, 1818, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 198-228.


Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Friedrich Schiller (The Ghost-Seer)


Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley




Stallings, Samantha. Guy, Teague. Villarroel Obando, Melina. Jamal, Ambreen.


Book, Novel




Fiction, Science Fiction, Gothic, Romantic movement, English Literature,


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Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Friedrich Schiller (The Ghost-Seer) , “Frankenstein : or, The Modern Prometheus ,” John T. and Agnes J. Gomatos Special Collections Room, accessed December 11, 2018,