The story behind the writing of Frankenstein is famous. In 1816, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, summering near Lake Geneva in Switzerland, were challenged by Lord Byron to take part in a competition to write a frightening tale. Mary, only 18 years old, later had a waking dream of sorts where she imagined the premise of her book:
When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw — with shut eyes, but acute mental vision, — I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.
This became the kernel of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the novel first published in London in 1818, with only 500 copies put in circulation.
Nearly two centuries later, a first edition signed by Shelley has turned up in the vestiges of Lord Byron’s library. The grandson of Lord Jay notes, “I saw the book lying at an angle in the corner of the top shelf. On opening it, I saw the title page, recognised what it was at once and leafed hungrily through the text – it was only when I flicked idly back to the first blank that I saw the inscription in cursive black ink, “To Lord Byron, from the author.”
Today this inscribed copy is on display at Peter Harrington’s, a London specialist in rare books. And there it will be put on auction, likely fetching north of £350,000, or $575,000. The video above gives you more of the backstory on the writing and gifting of the book.
You can find Frankenstein in our collections of Free eBooks and Free Audio Books. Also don’t miss the first film adaptation of Frankenstein from 1910 here, or the 1931 version listed in our meta list of Free Movies Online.