Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus was first published on January 1, 1818 without attribution. Only 500 copies were produced by the small publishing house known as Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones in London. Little to the publishing house’s knowledge, Frankenstein would end up becoming one of the most influential novels of all time. Four years later, Frankenstein was reprinted after the success of a play created by Richard Brinsley Peake based on the novel which sparked an interest within its audience members. This is the first time Mary Shelley claimed Frankenstein as her own.
Later in 1831, another edition was published. This edition went on to become the standard edition which most people have read. Though it is the most common, this edition was heavily edited by Shelley before publication due to some critiques citing the original as far too radical and vulgar. The Quarterly Review, a literary and political periodical, said the 1818 version of Frankenstein was, “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity,” upon its release. Because of the 1831 edition, there has been controversy as to which edition is most deserving of the spotlight. However, we think both have merit!
The 1818 Edition
The 1818 edition is the original work of Mary Shelley. It’s the one that started it all, and for some, the edition deserving of all the attention. The merit in this edition is in its origin. The 1818 edition was spawned from a friendly writing competition among Shelley’s friends and is loved by scholars and Franken-heads for its rawness and unaltered state. It’s believed this edition contains the original message of Shelley where the 1831 version tatters it. Plus, who wouldn’t love to own one of the original 500? Getting a hold of one may be difficult though, unless you have €350,000 to spend on Lord Byron’s personal copy signed by Shelley herself!
The 1831 Edition
To the chagrin of many, the 1831 version is the most widely read edition of Frankenstein. Anne K. Mellor wrote an essay in the W. W. Norton Critical edition arguing that the 1831 edition of Frankenstein loses Shelley’s tone and doesn’t coincide with her original vision. To understand the outcry of many, the alterations from the 1818 edition to the 1831 edition need to be listed:
- The 1818 edition’s first chapter was expanded as well as split into two different chapters
- The 1831 edition had changes made to the origin story of Elizabeth Lavenza
- The 1831 edition introduces the concept of galvanism, a power thought to be able to reanimate bodies
- The 1831 edition includes more of Victor’s motivations and thoughts for creating life
But even if some do detest the 1831 version, it still has a merit which might be overlooked. The main one being most people have read the 1831 edition. When we read books, we like to discuss them with others who have read the book. With the 1831 edition being the most popular, that means it’s more likely to come across someone who has read it. This means we readers can fulfill our need to discuss this edition easier than the 1818 edition.
Editions, Editions, and More Editions
Since its creation, Frankenstein has been made into almost 300 editions. Yes, you read that right. 300. Romantic Circles, a scholarly website devoted to the Romantic period, has compiled a list of editions starting from the original 1818 version all the way to a 2000 Spanish translation. Below, we’ve compiled five editions of Frankenstein worth taking a look at. (And maybe even purchasing, if you have the coin.) Which is your favorite?
1) The Grosset and Dunlap Edition
Based solely on the iconic cover, the Grosset and Dunlap edition of Frankenstein makes the list. This edition was printed in 1931 to capitalize on the Frankenstein movie produced by Universal pictures that year, simply titled Frankenstein. This movie became a cult classic, and by 1943, Universal reported the movie made $708,871 with only a $262,007 budget! Unfortunately, you’ll have to be comfortable with shelling out a little over $1,000 for this edition.
2) The Puffin 8-Bit Edition
If you’re into the 8-bit video game aesthetic, this edition of Frankenstein is for you. Puffin published this retro looking Frankenstein in 2016. This is particularly neat if you’re a video game buff and remember Dr. Franken released on the Game Boy which holds similar artwork.
3) The 1818 and 1831 Editions in One Book
This edition of Frankenstein from Uber Books includes both the 1818 edition and 1831 edition all in one book. No more arguing about which one is better! You could use this edition to closely compare the two editions.
4) The Barnes & Noble Edition
This Barnes & Noble edition of Frankenstein gives off dark castle library vibes with its red and black aesthetic. The pages have gilded red edges, contributing even more to the spooky factor of this edition. And if you have read Frankenstein before, the lightning on the cover is great foreshadowing!
5) The Classic Comics Edition
If you’re looking for a more casual read of Frankenstein, perhaps this Classic Comics edition is for you. Classic Comics set out to turn classic novels into graphic novels and, of course, Frankenstein made it in. What makes this crossover so great is the nicely drawn illustrations alongside a condensed version of the original work.
6) The Classics Reimagined Edition
This edition from Rockport Publishers is specially illustrated by graphic artist David Plunkert for the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. There are illustrations inside as well, including an 8-page insert that shows doctor designs and a full spread of the monster. Frankenstein and his creature have never been so horrifying.
Celebrate Franken Fridays with us! Frighteningly fun events are held each Friday to celebrate Frankenstein’s 200th publishing anniversary. Connect with us on social media using the #FrankenFriday tag.
Friday, Oct. 26
- 11 a.m., Library 134, Gainesville Campus—”Frankenstein and Posthumanism” faculty panel featuring Dr. Lynn Berdanier, Dr. John Hamilton, Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, and Dr. Kristin Yager
- Noon to 3 p.m., upstairs lobby, Cumming Campus—PoeDown and costume contest
- Noon, Library 134, Gainesville Campus—“Monster Theory” faculty panel featuring Dr. Jeff Pardue, Dr. Phil Guerty, Dr. Patsy Worrall
- 3-5 p.m., Mount Hope Cemetery, Dahlonega Campus—“Secrets from the Grave” guided tour of Mount Hope Cemetery.