What better time of year to celebrate one of the greatest horror stories in world literature than now? Since its publication in 1818, the tale of the man-made monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus has captivated readers and caused no small stir of debate on the creation of life and the egotism of mankind. In fact, Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has been re-created time and again in film and literature, sometimes as an awful and terrible creature and occasionally as a poor wretch who desperately tries to break free of man’s cruelty. The Archives and Rare Book Library hold some electrifying editions of Mary Shelley’s famous work.
One of the most beautiful printings of this book ever to be produced is part of the holdings in the Archives & Rare Books Library. The Pennyroyal Edition, published in 1983 by Barry Moser, is a gorgeous book that does immense credit to the story. Moser is arguably the pre-eminent bookman in the world today, working as an artist, printmaker, and designer. His work is deeply treasured in numerous libraries and private collections, and the library holds a very fine collection of his work.
In this edition of Frankenstein, the book was printed by the late Harold McGrath of Massachusetts in an edition of 350, of which the University of Cincinnati copy is #322. Moser is well-known for his dark, brooding woodcuts in a number of his books, particularly in his Pennyroyal Caxton Bible of 1999, generally accorded as being one of the most beautiful books ever printed. Frankenstein’s creation is a notable example of Moser’s work. The monster is never portrayed full-body, or even full-faced. His horrifying visage is rendered by Moser in shadows, his intent being to draw the reader deeply into the monster’s world, to use imagination in how the monster looks. In composing the images, Moser wants the reader to see the monster as a sympathetic figure in a dark and hopeless world.
The Moser Frankenstein is presented in a slipcase, with a suite of prints of the woodcuts. The text is based on the original 1818 edition of the novel, using the copy in the Smith College Library. Essays by Joyce Carol Oates, William St. Clair, Ruth Mortimer, and Emily Sunstein complement the text.
The call number for the book is Spec Col Ref oversize PR5397.F7 1984c. To find more of Barry Moser’s work, please consult UCLID, the University of Cincinnati Libraries catalog.
Other editions of the Frankenstein story in the Archives & Rare Books Library include The Frankenstein Notebooks, compiled and transcribed by Donald H. Reiman. This two-volume set allows researchers to explore Shelley’s original manuscript, which is housed in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. In addition to a facsimile of the original manuscript, this set contains transcriptions and a corrected, critical text of the first issue of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Another interesting edition of the novel, published in 1934 by Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, contains woodcuts by the artist Lynd Ward. Ward was a master of the woodcut technique and was also the first person to create an entire novel from only woodcuts. The call number for The Frankenstein Notebooks is Rare Books Oversize PR5397.F73 .S54 1996. The call number for Frankenstein illustrated by Lynd Ward is Rare Books PR5397 .F7 1934b. See the gallery below for more images from Frankenstein by Moser and Ward.
Written by Kevin Grace and Suzanne Maggard