London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818. First edition. Mary Shelley’s masterpiece of Gothic horror and early polemic against the hubris of modern science, one of 500 copies printed. 3 volumes, duodecimo (171 x 102 mm). Bound c.1900 in brown morocco, spines lettered in gilt, gilt turn-ins, marbled endpapers, gilt edges. Housed in red half morocco solander box. Bound without half-titles and terminal advertisements. Front endpapers and initial binder’s blank of vol. I a little split and loosening in hinge, light spotting and sporadic minor interior soiling (more substantial to vol. I pp. 37/8 and 177-end, vol. II p. 52, and vol. III pp. 91-4), a few page corners lightly creased, small chip at lower outer corner of vol. I pp. 153/4, minor paper restoration at upper outer corner of vol. III pp. 47/8 not affecting text, repaired closed tear to vol. III pp. 131/2 slightly affecting text without loss; these flaws generally minor, still a very good copy.
Written when Mary Shelley was only 19, Frankenstein is not the only memorable remnant of that “wet, ungenial summer” of 1816 at the Villa Diodati (Polidori's The Vampyre has the same origin), but it is certainly the most famous. Frankenstein effortlessly transcends the typical Gothic novel: ruined castles, graveyards and charnel houses appear only briefly or in the distance, and diabolical agency is replaced by human, natural and scientific powers. And unlike most Gothic novels Frankenstein is modern rather than mock-medieval: Mary Shelley managed to reconcile the Prometheus theme, then occupying both her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, with the most up-to-date scientific preoccupations, anticipating many of the themes of science fiction.
Tinker 1881; Wolff 6280. (Item #4533)