September 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Rare Frankenstein Unveiled in London

PH-Frankenstein.jpgEarlier today, an extraordinary copy of Frankenstein was unveiled at rare bookseller Peter Harrington's London gallery, and a full-color catalogue was issued to celebrate its return to the land of the living. Just two weeks ago, the rare book firm had announced an astonishing find: an inscribed first edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, "from the author" to Lord Byron. This presentation copy of an important book from one famous author to another bears witness to one of the most intriguing literary friendships -- as the legend goes, it was Byron who dared the teenaged Shelley to write a "ghost story." Peter Harrington's proprietor Pom Harrington said, "We don't always get the chance to celebrate the provenance or the history of the wonderful books we sell. So this is a wonderful opportunity to share this association copy and perhaps the most evocative presentation copy conceivable in all nineteenth-century literature with the world." The book, bound in contemporary calf and looking its age, was discovered by the twenty-something grandson of a late British politician who probably shelved it fifty years ago without a fuss.

Volume one alone (volumes two and three are missing) of Frankenstein, published in 1818, with Shelley's handwriting on a blank page preceding the half-title page, will remain on view at Harrington's until October 3. In an unconventional move, the bookseller is taking bids for the book -- only those in excess of £350,000 (about $567,000) will be entertained. 

Only one other copy of a signed Frankenstein first edition seems to have survived the nearly two hundred years since publication---and that is Shelley's own copy, which now resides at the Morgan Library in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Peter Harrington.