Flip Through Mary Shelley’s Draft Notebooks for Frankenstein

Shaunacy Ferro
Bodleian Libraries
Bodleian Libraries / Bodleian Libraries

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley famously conceived the plot of Frankenstein during a friendly ghost story competition while spending a summer in Geneva with her husband, Percy Shelley, and the poet Lord Byron (among others). She expanded the tale into first a short story, then a full novel, which would become her most famous work.

The two notebooks that contain Shelley’s main draft of Frankenstein are on display as part of an exhibit at the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, and you can flip through a digitized copy of both online. She bought the paper for the first notebook around August 1816 while still in Geneva, and completed her draft on English paper she probably bought a few months later. While some of the pages have since been lost, the remainder form a unique look into the formation of one of the world’s most famous monster stories.

A handwritten draft of the moment when Frankenstein's monster comes to life.

You can see the drafts and more literary artifacts from the Shelley family from the Bodleian Libraries.