Read a Huge Annotated Online Edition of Frankenstein: A Modern Way to Celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Classic Novel

Born out of evening read­ing of spooky sto­ries on a rain-soaked hol­i­day, Mary Shelley’s 1818 nov­el Franken­stein has res­onat­ed through the years into pop cul­ture, a warn­ing against sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, of how the thirst for knowl­edge can lit­er­al­ly cre­ate mon­sters. If you’ve been bing­ing West­world or loved Ex Machi­na you are see­ing Shelley’s lega­cy, both filled with sci­en­tif­ic cre­ations that ques­tion their own rea­son for exis­tence.

Just like those works are prod­ucts of our era, Franken­stein did not just arise from a dream state—-Shelley was influ­enced by the con­cerns, events, and news of her day.

There­fore this anno­tat­ed ver­sion of Franken­stein, called Franken­book, should make a top­i­cal and impor­tant read this sum­mer. And every­body can take part, if they choose to join the dis­cus­sion.

“Anno­tat­ed for sci­en­tists, engi­neers, and cre­ators of all kinds,” is how the web­site describes the project, cre­at­ed in Jan­u­ary 2018 by Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty to hon­or the bicen­ten­ni­al of the book’s pub­li­ca­tion. “Franken­book gives read­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trace the sci­en­tif­ic, tech­no­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and eth­i­cal dimen­sions of the nov­el, and to learn more about its his­tor­i­cal con­text and endur­ing lega­cy.”

You will have to sign up (just an email and a pass­word is nec­es­sary) to actu­al­ly see the nov­el, but once in, you can get read­ing. Along the way on the right hand side of the mar­gin, a clus­ter of black dots indi­cate if a sec­tion is anno­tat­ed. Click on the dots with your mouse and the anno­ta­tion will appear. (The anno­ta­tions are also avail­able at the end of each of the nov­el­’s three parts for those who just want to read the nov­el straight through.)

Dozens of experts have con­tributed to the anno­ta­tions so far, and open­ing an account allows you to sub­mit your own to the edi­tors for con­sid­er­a­tion. You can also fil­ter anno­ta­tions by one of eight themes: “Equi­ty & Inclu­sion” (social jus­tice issues), “Health & Med­i­cine,” “Influ­ences and Adap­ta­tions,” “Mary Shel­ley” (per­son­al infor­ma­tion about the author), “Moti­va­tions & Sen­ti­ments,” “Phi­los­o­phy & Pol­i­tics,” “Sci­ence,” and “Tech­nol­o­gy.”

The site also fea­tures sev­er­al essays on the nov­el­’s var­i­ous themes, includ­ing ones by Cory Doc­torow, Anne K. Mel­lor, Josephine John­ston, and oth­ers.

If you’ve been putting off read­ing Shelley’s clas­sic for what­ev­er rea­son, this is prob­a­bly the best chance to read it. And if you’ve read it before, it’s time to revis­it it along­side a host of vir­tu­al experts. The web, that Prome­thi­an cre­ation of our own time, is actu­al­ly good for some things, you know!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read­ing Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein on Its 200th Anniver­sary: An Ani­mat­ed Primer to the Great Mon­ster Sto­ry & Tech­nol­o­gy Cau­tion­ary Tale

Dis­cov­ered: Lord Byron’s Copy of Franken­stein Signed by Mary Shel­ley

The Very First Film Adap­ta­tion of Mary Shelley’s Franken­stein, a Thomas Edi­son Pro­duc­tion (1910)

Mary Shelley’s Hand­writ­ten Man­u­scripts of Franken­stein Now Online for the First Time
Dis­cov­ered: Lord Byron’s Copy of Franken­stein Signed by Mary Shel­ley

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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