by Liz Shand

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When recounting his process of editing Frankenstein, Charles E. Robinson writes, "What I painfully learned was that texts about monsters sometimes breed monstrous texts" (Robinson 37). He uses the same metaphor when discussing his work of physically re-stitching Mary Shelley's notebook containing Frankenstein drafts: "We wanted to shout out with Colin Clive, 'It's alive!' It's alive!'".1 Tracing Frankenstein's production makes Robinson's metaphor apt. "Frankenstein," the larger cultural myth, is scrapped and threaded together with the history of the story's conception; with questions over the actual influence or collaboration of Percy Shelley via handwritten manuscript drafts; with portioning the three drastically different early editions of the text into a definitive text; with media adaptations that have solidified the visualization of the Creature; and with the mass of iconographic consumer products that build on the familiar bolt-necked, dull green, flat-top, stitched-up "Frankenstein" image. The cultural material encompassed in Frankenstein's various media forms make a single "Frankenstein myth" difficult to locate. Similarly, when considering the various media and authorial influences on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, can we, and if so how do we, locate the Frankenstein text?

An archaeology of Frankenstein obviates the boundlessness of the work itself. Just as Mary Shelley's 1831 introduction expands the text of Frankenstein to the well-known story of its conception in Geneva, modern editions are replete with critical introductions, essays, and appendices that track the story's modern cultural transformation. Susan J. Wolfson and Ronald L. Levao's beautiful The Annotated Frankenstein is a helpful example: it is bursting with images that visualize the transformation of "Frankenstein" from its first stage adaptation to present day iterations. However, such a visualized social history of Frankenstein is not as simple as inserting movie stills or graphic novel illustrations (to name examples of different mediations) into an edition's introduction. The difficulty of curating an archaeology of Frankenstein rests in determining the point of departure from Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus the text and "Frankenstein" the cultural legacy. I will begin to explore the difficulty in separating text from legacy through an excavation of Frankenstein's authorship, central to editions since the novel's first publication. Specifically, how does each edition confirm or complicate the work as "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"?  John Lauritsen's The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein (2007) and Scott de Hart's Shelley UnBound (2013), for example, contend that Mary Shelley contributed little more than clerical services to a story truly written by Percy Shelley. An archaeology of Frankenstein does not refute nor inherit these claims, but does explore how such questions fit into the trajectory of Frankenstein's presentation. The tension of reclaiming "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus" from the popular "Frankenstein" myth has continuously led to questions of authorship and collaboration. To return to our earlier metaphor, unstitching "Frankenstein" reveals many and different creators' fingerprints, but raises more questions of why each fingerprint disturbed the creation at all.

Immediate Differences: 1818, 1823, and 1831

There is little particularly distinct about the 1818 first edition of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. The edition was published anonymously in three separate volumes on January 1, 1818 by the London publishing house Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones. The bound book is thick; each full page of text includes only twenty-two lines due to a small trim size, large font size, and wide leading.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While the novel itself is not long, the loose text design effectively makes each of the three separately-distributed volumes look and feel weightier. William St. Clair elaborates: "Frankenstein was only stretched to three volumes by printing few words to the line, few lines to the page, and few pages to the volume" (St. Clair 42). The loose text design is explained by the circulating libraries central to early nineteenth-century reading practices. As novels were too expensive for most readers, they were more likely to access them via circulating libraries. These circulating libraries preferred the three-volume format because it allowed the same title to be read by more than one reader simultaneously. Early printings of Frankenstein were thus an intersection between conventional genre and format, publishers' desires for sales and revenue, and circulating libraries' distributions — none of which are unique to Frankenstein. As was the case in 1818, the current myth of "Frankenstein" might be said to be the result of gradual media evolutions to suit public taste.

The prefatory matter of the 1818 edition presents the novel void of any cultural remediation resulting from its subsequent popularity. The first noticeable feature of the front matter is an epigraph on the title page, under the full title and descriptor "In Three Volumes."

Portion of title page of Frankenstein. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The epigraph reads:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man?  Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me? —

What kind of reader was Frankenstein initially intended for, based on the Milton excerpt? The choice of excerpt certainly emphasizes the religious and philosophic aspects of the novel, but perhaps speaks more to the novel's ability to bridge literary and popular culture. A further question would be what kinds of readers used the libraries in which Frankenstein was originally circulated.

Additionally, the first edition contains a dedication to William Godwin, the father of Mary Shelley and a public intellectual known for his radical politics and philosophy. This dedication suggested to contemporaries that the anonymous author was within Godwin's circle, and many speculated that Percy Shelley, a known admirer of Godwin, was the author of the anonymous work. Without revealing the author's identity, the dedication aligns Frankenstein with Godwin's radical philosophy and thus appeals to a certain liberal reader. The first edition also contains a preface written in the first person that grounds the work in contemporary scientific and philosophic discussions. Together, the epigraph, dedication, and medical-scientific emphasis in the preface set the tone for a weighty, philosophic read. It is important to note that it is just this weight that has caused critics, since the novel's first publication to the present day, to think that a nineteen-year-old girl could not have written Frankenstein. That rhetoric is less used now than in the early eighteenth century, certainly, but the inclusion of this prefatory material does reveal an intended insertion into the (male) philosophic community. Although scholars do not deny Frankenstein's philosophical importance, the prefatory matter's framing was quickly overwritten by the novel's popular appeal. Visual representations and the assertion of Mary Shelley as author replace the epigraph and dedication in later contemporary editions. It is possible that the philosophic framework would have appeared as an apparent contradiction to a text by a female author.

In addition to aligning the story with current philosophic and scientific discussions, the preface sets the scene of the story's production. The preface reads:2

It is a subject also of additional interest to the author that this story was begun in the majestic region where the scene is principally laid, and in society which cannot cease to be regretted. I passed the summer of 1816 in the environs of Geneva. The season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, which happened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playful desire of imitation.

The description of Frankenstein's inception adds to the story's Romantic landscape. Frankenstein's production famously begins with a story-telling contest among Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and William Polidori in Switzerland based on their perusal of "some German stories of ghosts." This book is now identified as Fantasmagoriana, a French translation of a German book of ghost stories. The two bound volumes of Fantasmagoriana are thick, totaling 578 pages, and contain eight unillustrated stories that the Shelleys, Byron, and Polidori supposedly read aloud, inspiring Byron to declare that they should each write their own ghost story. Byron's suggestion preempts the very questions of collaboration and authorship that plague Frankenstein to the present.  The famous legacy of Frankenstein's inception is passed down in modern prefaces and introductions of the work, and the interest in its inception reinforces the feeling that the printed text of Frankenstein is only a portion of the story's hold on popular appeal. Interest in its dramatic origins excites both scholars and casual readers, and the story of its inception is included in the introduction or appendix of most standard editions. From its very creation, Frankenstein was fated to be a myth embedded within its historical context. Furthermore, the story of Frankenstein's inspiration questions the "authority" behind the text: is it the singular inspiration of one author, or the product of external influences? Would it have been a novel without Lord Byron's enthusiasm that they each create their own story, or without Percy Shelley encouraging Mary to expand her originally short tale? Tying the story of Frankenstein's inception into the text itself builds in the sense that Mary's writing was influenced by her company — but the creation of "Frankenstein" remains her singular idea.

After only one printed edition, Frankenstein took hold in the public imagination and spread beyond its printed text. In 1823 Frankenstein was adapted for the stage in Richard Brinsley Peake's Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein. Although Presumption is the most widely discussed of the early Frankenstein stage adaptations, two other early theatre performances appeared based on the text: Henry M. Milner's The Demon of Switzerland (1823) and Frankenstein: or The Man and the Monster (1826). Each of these adaptations demonstrate the story's instant appeal and mark early attempts to visualize the creature. The playbill for Presumption identifies the Creature with dashes, "(------)," to the enjoyment of Mary Shelley herself. "[T]his nameless mode of naming the unnamable is rather good" (Letters 1.378), she writes to her friend.

Playbill advertising Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein, 1823.

Although the "namelessness" of the creature is preserved, the play adaptation makes several significant changes, including relationships amongst the characters; the addition of the comic servant, Fritz; and the speechlessness of the Creature. Additionally, Stephen C. Behrendt notes that the modern confusion in referring to the Creature as "Frankenstein" was begun by adaptations in the 1820s and 1830s: "As frequently happens with modern film versions of literary works, many audiences in the 1820s made their first acquaintance with Frankenstein not through the printed text of Shelley's novel but rather through one of the staged versions" (Behrendt, A Romantic Circles Edition). Mary Shelley herself remarked, "But lo & behold! I found myself famous!" (Letters 1.378). These stage adaptations are significant in tracing Frankenstein: almost immediately after its publication Frankenstein the popular novel was separated from the "Frankenstein" of popular culture.

The second edition of Frankenstein was printed in 1823 by G. and W.B. Whittaker in London with a number of significant variations. M.K. Joseph identifies the 1823 second edition as a "simply page-by-page reprint of the first, rearranged in two volumes" in his 1969 Oxford University Press edition of Frankenstein (Joesph xix). However, E.B Murray counters Joseph, noting that the changes in the 1823 edition have escaped "editorial scrutiny" (Murray 320). He lists 114 changes, discounting changes in spelling. These changes largely include restructuring sentences and altering vocabulary. For example, Murray notes a change in the phrase "abhorrent to myself" to "intolerable to myself,"" and "he had quitted prison" to "he quitted his prison" (320). Murray argues that the changes were made by Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, commonly thought to have arranged for publication of the 1823 edition. Murray dismisses Mary Shelley as the editor because many of the changes re-work her own emendations of Percy Shelley's 1816-17 edits. Shelley himself died a year before the second edition was published. It is possible that because Godwin is most generally regarding as having edited and prepared the 1823 edition, it is less widely acknowledged as a significant version of the text. Later editions certify this belief, such as Stuart Curran's Romantic Circles online edition of the text, which lists the 1823 edition as "supervised by William Godwin." Two significant changes do occur in 1823, however. It is restructured from three volumes to two, and the author is identified as "Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin." It is probable, furthermore, that Mary Shelley used the 1823 edition as a fair copy for preparing the 1831 third edition. These variations, as well as the role and assistance of William Godwin, contextualize future iterations of Frankenstein.

The third edition of Frankenstein was published in 1831 as the ninth title in Richard Bentley and Henry Cooper's "Standard Novel Series." The series published one-volume editions of novels previously only available in triple-decker format. The text design is much tighter than the 1818 edition: it is a 6x9-inch novel at 40 lines per page and runs a total of 202 pages. The new format significantly lowered the cost from a guinea and a half for a triple-decker novel to six shillings for the single volume format, thus widening the audience (Wallins). Bentley and Cooper bought up the copyrights for novels that were part of the series and, if the author was still living, asked the author to add or edit the text to substantiate that edition as authoritative. Mary Shelley complied, making significant edits and adding an introduction.

In addition to Mary Shelley's textual interventions, the 1831 edition includes the addition of the first printed illustration of Frankenstein's characters. The frontispiece includes two engravings that illustrate scenes from the novel, which are underscored with correlating text.

Frontispiece engravings of Frankenstein, 1831. Third edition.

The illustrations highlight the dramatic romanticism of the text: both include a figure embarking on solitary journeys — one of the Creature awaking and the other of Victor Frankenstein leaving Elizabeth. The image of the Creature, particularly, differs from modern renderings, appearing more like a stunned, nude, muscular man than a stitched-up monster. Indeed, the inclusion of Victor Frankenstein, the Creature, a skeleton, and a book in a close space emphasize the humanity of the Creature moreso, arguably, than subsequent visualizations. This depiction suggests a moment in which the legacy of the work — built from stage adaptations and the newly widened audience &damsh; begins to overshadow the work itself.

The preface of the 1818 edition is retained in the 1831 edition, but the dedication to Godwin and the epigraph quoting Paradise Lost are removed. Rather than an epigraph, the title page identifies Mary Shelley as author. The title page reads, "By the Author of The Last Man, Perkin Warbeck, &c. &c." and continues "Revised, corrected, and illustrated with a new introduction, by the author." This, along with Mary Shelley's elaborate account of the story's genesis in her added introduction, further cement the work as "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein." Mary Shelley herself confronts the early speculations that Percy Shelley was the true author. She writes:

At first I thought but of a few pages of a short tale; but Shelley urged me to develope the idea at greater length. I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband, and yet but for his incitement, it would never have taken the form in which it was presented. From this declaration I must except the preface. As far as I can recollect, it was entirely written by him.

While claiming inspiration entirely to herself, she credits Percy Shelley with urging her to expand the story and, significantly, with writing the preface of the first edition. Later editions thus identify the 1818 preface as Percy Shelley's writing due to Mary Shelley's credit. James Rieger's 1974 edition of the 1818 text, for example, adds "By Percy Shelley" in parentheses next to the Preface listed in the table of contents. In the main text, he adds the note, "Preface written by Shelley from his wife's point of view" (Rieger 6).

In addition to referencing, yet undercutting, Percy Shelley's collaboration in the 1831 Introduction, Mary Shelley also downplays her own edits. She writes that the alterations "are principally those of style" and that she has "changed no portion of the story, nor introduced any new ideas or circumstances." Later editors combat this claim, notably Anne K. Mellor, who writes that the 1818 and 1831 text are entirely different works. In the chapter "Revising Frankenstein" in Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters, Mellor details Mary Shelley's personal experiences leading to the 1831 text's changes, including the deaths of Percy Shelley and their son, William. Mellor identifies the injection of "the rhetoric of fatalism" in the 1831 edition (Mellor 172). Such rhetoric, she argues, was developed by Mary Shelley's personal losses leading to a radically different philosophic view of nature as an uncontrollable force. The mix of changes in the 1831 edition, including the logistics of purchasing a new copyright, popular appeal through engravings, and Mary Shelley's personal alterations, exhibit a text produced by both authorial legacy and popular reception.

1818 or 1831 and Modern Scholarly Choice

Considering the drastic differences between the 1818 and 1831 texts, modern editions must choose to follow. James Rieger's 1974 edition adds "The 1818 Text" in parentheses under the subtitle on the title page; Marilyn Butler's 1994 Oxford World's Classics edition places "1818 text" as a sort of subtitle on the cover that replaces the actual subtitle; the 1999 Broadview edition similarly adds "The original 1818 text" under the author's name on the cover and "The 1818 version" on the title page. These identifications on covers and title pages center the debate over which version of the text constitutes Mary Shelley's intent and which version is most useful to teach. Prior to Rieger's work on the 1974 text, the 1831 edition had been privileged since the time of its publication. The change in preference to 1818 signals academic interest in "the original Frankenstein" — that is, Mary Shelley's earliest version of the story.

Scholarly debate over preference has led to several print editions that attempt to collate the texts — ignoring Mellor's vindication that the two editions must be treated as entirely different texts. Both Rieger's 1974 edition and Butler's 1994 Oxford World Classics edition, for example, include collations (or "substantive changes" in Butler's edition) as an appendix to the text. The appendix of both editions also include Mary Shelley's 1831 Introduction and a section with different historical materials. Reiger continues focus on the novel's story-telling origins with the inclusion of both Bryon and Polidori's tales from the contest, while Butler focuses on historical reception with a section of contemporary reviews.

A second type of attempt to encompass the differences between the versions is exemplified by M.K. Joseph's 1969 Oxford University Press edition. Joseph identifies the 1831 text as the basis for his edition, but incorporates the title page, epigraph, and dedication of the 1818. Joseph's table of contents identifies in brackets the date that each element was printed. This serves to define the structural changes made between the editions but also creates a morphed and incongruous printed text. The front matter of the anonymous 1818 edition, for example, frames content and reception substantially differently than that of Mary Shelley's self-referencing 1831 edition.

Digital projects have serviced study of both Frankenstein the text and "Frankenstein" the cultural legacy. The 2009 Romantic Circles edition of Frankenstein, edited by Stuart Curran, confronts the need to choose between 1818 and 1831 editions by presenting full and separate transcriptions of both. The archive avoids prioritizing either edition and allows the reader to choose. The Curran edition inherits Mellor's treatment of the 1818 and 1831 editions as separate texts. Transcriptions of both texts are available on the site, as well as a link to a Juxta Commons edition with collations of the two. The Juxta Commons edition itself serves to support Mellor's claim: the variations are so extensive that it is difficult to come to any conclusions about how and why individual changes were made. Curran's edition is, however, referenced as "usefully supplementing" the last edition of Frankenstein to be discussed: The Shelley-Godwin Archive.

Portion of Juxta Commons visualization of changes between the 1818 and 1831 editions.

A substantial portion of the Curran edition includes the social history of "Frankenstein," the attention to which is seemingly framed by the lime-green color scheme of the site's header banner. A section of the site includes short essays on "Frankenstein in Popular Culture", with sub-sections for movie, comic, theatre adaptations, and literary references, and "Editions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein", which includes "most of the major editions, reprints, and translations through 1996 that can be found in libraries."3 The list, which includes printed editions only, totals 281. The inclusion of varied adaptations and editions "unbinds" Frankenstein and ties the text to its long-lasting cultural appeal. The Curran edition is successful in displaying the 1818 and 1831 texts as different iterations of a story within the same framework and as part of a larger trajectory of cultural production. It refuses to choose a single creator by ingesting the many facets of "Frankenstein" and providing resources to take study of the work in multiple directions. However, it does little to explain or analyze the various adaptations. A Romantic Circles site on Presumption is linked with the Curran edition, but a similar sort of social-cultural exploration of additional adaptations would be helpful in better shaping the social history of the text.

Manuscript Editions

In the 1990s, Charles E. Robinson changed the focus of the Frankenstein text from the variations between 1818 and 1831 to a concentration on the manuscripts themselves. This focus heightened debate on the author of Frankenstein by making visible Percy Shelley's early edits to the manuscript that were accepted into the 1818 printing. Robinson's 1996 The Frankenstein Notebooks offers facsimiles of the notebooks carrying Mary Shelley's drafts of the novel, while his 2009 The Original Frankenstein translates these notebooks into print in an attempt to recreate in type her original words. To do this, The Original Frankenstein offers two versions of the text. One authored by "Mary (with Percy) Shelley" italicizes the additions made by Percy Shelley. The second version removes Percy Shelley's additions to present the text as it exists in Mary Shelley's draft hand — something which had not previously been printed. Robinson estimates that Percy Shelley "contributed at least 4,000 to 5,000 to this 72,000 word-count novel" (Robinson 14), and the different versions obviate his role while widening the debate on him as collaborator, contributor, editor, or author. Robinson is explicit in his purpose: to present Frankenstein as close as possible to its original existence, as Mary Shelley first wrote it. In the introduction he centers the importance of doing so in the countless cultural adaptations of the text since its inception: "For nearly two centuries, hundreds of other redactions or digests or scripts of the novel continued to compromise the voice behind the text as originally crafted in 1816-17" (Robinson 18). The Original Frankenstein is itself visually designed to recapture "the voice behind the original text." Aside from adding "Original" to the title and delegating Percy Shelley as a contributor in relation to Mary Shelley as author, Robinson includes facsimiles of Mary Shelley's hand. The frontispiece for the "Mary (with Percy) Shelley" version includes "Frankenstein" in Mary Shelley's scrawling hand and a facsimile of a draft page. The Mary Shelley-only text, printed on a greyed, thinner paper, is prefaced with a frontispiece that includes Mary Shelley's signature. Unlike other editions' attempts to separate the 1818 and 1831 editions, Robinson returns to the overarching question of original creation via the manuscript. While his editions certify Mary Shelley as author, they do obviate the editorial process by both Mary and Percy Shelley that resulted in the many variations among the early Frankenstein editions.

The Shelley-Godwin Archive, released on October 31, 2013, inherits and utilizes the scholarship of Robinson. In fact, it is tempting to argue that the Frankenstein portion of the Shelley-Godwin Archive is much more of a digital edition of Robinson's The Original Frankenstein than of the drafts themselves; the archive even includes the Introduction and Chronology from The Frankenstein Notebooks. The archive was developed through a partnership among the New York Public Library, the Bodleian, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and is edited by Neil Fraistat, Elizabeth Denlinger, and Raffaele Viglianti. As of 2016 the archive is far from completion. Its eventual aim is to digitally present the manuscript works of Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and William Godwin. Currently, it includes four poems by Percy Shelley ("Prometheus Unbound", "Translation of Plato's Ion", "Ode to Heaven", and "Misery — A Fragment"), as well as Frankenstein. The Shelley-Godwin Archive interjects in critical discussion of proper authorship by offering the drafted manuscripts of Frankenstein, showing Mary Shelley's hand and Percy Shelley's edits. Indeed, the archive breaks apart the typecast letters of both the 1818 and 1831 texts to reveal the separate hands. The archive editors note that the extant notebook pages constitute 87% of the final 1818 text — they do not include the introductory letters that frame the narrative. The archive also presents the extant fair copy manuscript held by the Bodleian, which they identify as 12% of the total fair copy. The Shelley-Godwin Archive (S-GA) does not directly state an opinion on the authorship debate but acknowledges the archive's usefulness in contributing to either side. The editors note:

The marquee feature of S-GA, which enables users to view which words on any page are in Mary or Percy Shelley's hand, may prove useful amid the continuing controversy about how much of Frankenstein's text was composed by each. Searches on the entire text can also be filtered by attributed hand. Among the relative few who maintain that Percy Shelley actually authored the entire text, such as John Lauritsen in The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein (2007), evidence that Mary Shelley's hand vastly predominates in the manuscript only goes to show that she was taking dictation from him.

The "work space" of the S-GA offers many possibilities for analyzing the text. The header presents information about each manuscript page, including author, date written, title of the work of which it is a part, the institute in which the original is held, the hands present on the draft, its shelf mark, and its folio number. Archive users can view individual pages of extant drafts, with a transcription to the right. One may zoom in or out on the manuscript image, rotate it, or search the transcription text. Furthermore, the user has the option of "limiting" the text by viewing only Mary or Percy Shelley's written text. The default limit view is "All," which presents the full transcription in black font, but when a user selects "Percy Shelley," for example, Mary Shelley's text is deemphasized by a transparent grey and Percy Shelley's edits are switched to red.

Sample manuscript/transcription comparison from The Shelley-Godwin Archive, with manuscript facsimile and transcription.

Left: Limit View "Mary Shelley"; Right: Limit View: "Percy Shelley."

The ability to separate the text by contributor emphasizes the debate of "true" authorship within the S-GA. The arguable effect of the separation by hand is to lessen the text as a collaborative effort, and present it as written by one (Mary Shelley) and edited by another (Percy Shelley). On the other hand, structuring the site around a literary family suggests that Percy Shelley's role in Frankenstein may have been as an intellectual partner in line with the Shelley-Godwin family history, rather than as a heavy hand in (or the only hand of) the text. Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, is known to have solicited William Godwin's advice in her writing, and their literary partnership shows an equal concern for collaboration and editorial advice, rather than critical anxiety over definitive authorship. The Shelley-Godwin Archive, then, has the potential to claim that the definition of "collaborator," "editor," or "author" is tied to individual context and relationships more so than traditional scholarship has allowed. Still, as the current content only features Percy and Mary Shelley's works, it arguably centers attention on their drafts in relation to each other, rather than as part of a larger collaborative milieu.

Significantly, the S-GA's editors have identified Mary Shelley as the author of the Frankenstein manuscript pages in the manuscript page headers, but account for Percy Shelley's role though the header's category "Hand(s)." Percy Shelley is attributed as a "hand" on nearly every manuscript page. However, the mark-up of the site reveals another interesting layer in the history of the site's development: the content description of the archive reads:

<meta name="description" content="Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft, bringing together online for the first time ever the widely dispersed handwritten legacy of this uniquely gifted family of writers.">

Not only is Mary Shelley identified in relation to her mother, as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, no mention of Percy Shelley is made. Was it an afterthought to include Percy Shelley's works? The mark-up reveals the editorial conflict of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein": despite any attempt to isolate and reclaim the work of Mary Shelley, in the end, Percy Shelley must necessarily be included or discussed.

It is unfaithful to ignore the general iconography of "Frankenstein" within an archaeology of the work. Indeed, even when discussing the novel only, it becomes impossible to separate the cultural appeal and iconography that illustrate editions' covers and pages. Modern visualizations of the creature (or is the creature Frankenstein?) range from its original romantic incantation, to the horrific, to the cute and cartoonish — most stemming, of course, from Boris Karloff's portrayal of the monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein (an image open for reuse via a Google image search).

Tops results of a Google Image search of "Frankenstein", labeled for reuse.

As mentioned in this essay's beginning, the metaphor of Frankenstein as its own "Frankenstein creation" by Robinson, the text's renowned scholar, obviate the unbounded ethos of the work. In the two-hundred years of remediation and transformation, the text has absorbed its own myth. Today, binding a text as popular as Frankenstein can only seemingly be accomplished by piecing together the many variations of its popular legacy. The Frankenfont edition of Frankenstein is one such edition that centers the impossibility of binding Frankenstein as a printed work. Frankenfont rejects both the scholarly binary between the 1818 and 1831 editions and refutes the question of authority between Mary and Percy Shelly — indeed, it contains no editor's introduction nor any prefatory material. Rather, the Frankenfont edition presents Frankenstein as the chaotic ingestion of many text-only mediations and presentations by using individual glyphs from PDF documents of Frankenstein available online. The most frequently used glyphs appear in the beginning of the text and devolve into the least frequently used as the novel closes. The result is a text the portrays the impossibly expansive nature of Frankenstein, ever-widening with each new edition or adaptation. Does the Frankenfont edition too fully destabilize the text as a single unit, or effectively center "Frankenstein" as a work endlessly subject to remediation? Whatever the answer may be, as a product of digital remediation it undoubtedly inherits the authorial uncertainty resting at the center of Frankenstein debates since its 1818 cultural debut.


[1] Colin Clive portrays Victor Frankenstein in the 1931 film adaptation.

[2] All excerpts quoted from Frankenstein are from the Romantic Circles edition of the texts.

[3] Numbers 265-281 on the list include editions from 1997-2000.

Works Cited

De Hart, Scott, and Joseph P. Farrell. Shelley Unbound: Discovering Frankenstein's True Creator. Feral House, 2013.

Howard, Jennifer. "The Birth of Frankenstein." Chronicle Of Higher Education 55.11 (2008): B12-B14.

Howard, Jennifer. "Frankenstein's Notebooks Draw Their First Online Breaths." Chronicle Of Higher Education 60.10 (2013): A19.

Lauritsen, John. The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein. Pagan Press, 2007.

Murray, E. B. "Changes in the 1823 Edition of Frankenstein."Library The Library S6-III.4 (1981): 320-27.

Peake, Richard Brinsley and Ed. Stephen C. Behrendt. Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein. "Romantic Circles." University of Maryland, August 2001.

Wallins, Roger P. "Richard Bentley; Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley; Henry Colburn; Henry Colburn and Company; Richard Bentley and Son." British Literary Publishing Houses, 1820-1880. Ed. Patricia Anderson and Jonathan Rose. Detroit: Gale, 1991.

Robinson, Charles E. "Editing and Contextualizing "The Frankenstein Notebooks"". Keats-Shelley Journal 46 (1997): 36–44.

Robinson, Charles E. The Frankenstein Notebooks. New York: Garland Pub., 1996.

St. Clair, William. "The Impact of Frankenstein". pp. 38-56. Mary Shelley In Her Times, Ed. Betty T. Bennett and Stuart Curran. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Editions Consulted

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin). Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. Fathom Information Design.

—. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. London, Printed for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. UNC-Chapel Hill Rare Book Collection.

—. Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley. 1831. Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft and James Reiger. Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus (The 1818 Text). NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1974.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft and Marilyn Butler. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Text. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft and M. K. Joseph. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. London: Oxford U.P., 1969.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Susan J. Wolfson, and Ronald Levao. The Annotated Frankenstein. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2012.

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