Dear Commons Community,
On this Halloween night, in a ceremony at the New York Public Library, digital editions of the Frankenstein notebooks will go online, marking the official debut of the Shelley-Godwin Archive. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):
“[In 1816,] Mary Shelley brought to life the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creature in notebooks that passed back and forth between her and her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who made some changes and additions. Now held by the Bodleian Library, at the University of Oxford, the notebooks are essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about the birth of Frankenstein, but for decades they have been very hard to see.
The archive is the offspring of a partnership among the Bodleian, the New York Public Library, and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, or MITH, located at the University of Maryland at College Park. Like Victor Frankenstein, the organizers have a grand ambition. They want to stitch together elements from different collections—especially the rich holdings of the Bodleian and the New York Public—and bring to life a major new digital resource, not just for scholars but for anyone interested in Mary and Percy Shelley or in Mary’s parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft… “We’re bringing those distributed manuscripts together and putting them online for everyone,” says Neil Fraistat, a professor of English at the University of Maryland, where he directs MIT
They decided to put the Frankenstein notebooks online first because the story has such a grip on the popular imagination and because they had excellent scholarly editions to build on. …
When the site rises to life [tonight], “you’ll be able to experience Frankenstein, all of the known drafts, all of the known fair copy, and you’ll be able to see it several different ways,” …You’ll be able to go through the pages of the notebooks, one by one,” as Mary and Percy worked on them, or order the sections in narrative sequence, as if reading through the novel.
Readers will be able to separate out Mary’s contributions from Percy’s, down to the level of specific words. “Let’s say you’re interested in the word ‘monster,'” Mr. Fraistat says. “You can search and find every instance of the word ‘monster’ in the drafts and fair copy,” along with every instance where that word was added or struck out by one Shelley or the other. “You can get some really interesting analysis going,” he says.”
Trick or Treat!