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An Original Edition of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' Is Headed for Auction

Jake Rossen
Mary Shelley published 'Frankenstein' when she was just 20 years old.
Mary Shelley published 'Frankenstein' when she was just 20 years old. / Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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Two of the more interesting facts about Mary Shelley: She wrote Frankenstein, and she kept her dead husband’s heart—often carrying it with her—following his drowning death in 1822.

The latter is not up for auction, but an original 1818 first edition of Frankenstein is. The tome is being sold by Christie’s and is expected to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000.

'Frankenstein' is pictured
This original edition of 'Frankenstein' is bound as a single volume. / Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2022

The initial print run was 500 copies; Shelley left her name off the book. Because her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the foreword, some assumed he was the author. (Mary Shelley admitted to authorship four years later and put her name on it beginning with the 1831 edition, which also featured a revised first chapter.)

Frankenstein was, at the time, printed across three volumes, a format known as “triple deckers” that allowed fractional volumes of books to reach more readers in the circulating paid libraries of the time. (It also helped retain library subscribers who wanted to wait for the next installment.) The edition offered here is bound as a single volume, presumably by its original owner. A separated set with its original pasteboards sold for $1.17 million in September 2021.

Shelley fans can bid on the book through Sunday, April 25, and hope their heart can take the suspense.

[h/t LiveAuctioneers.com]

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