Dracula (First Edition) by Bram Stoker
Dracula is a Gothic novel by Bram Stoker (1847-1912). The first edition of this work was published in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company, Winchester. Background
Written during Stoker’s time as business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, the novel was written to supplement his income.
The inspiration came from Whitby, which Stoker knew well and spent much time there. The tone and subject matter were very likely influenced by the contemporary fear of invasion. In the 1880s and 90s invasion literature, horror, and early science fiction were rife, such as the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, H. G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle. Stoker’s invasion literature, featuring the penetration of England by the dark European force of vampires, was therefore typical of its age.
Stoker had spent many years in deep fascination with European folklore regarding vampires. He researched it heavily before writing Dracula, and it was influenced by several other works. The character of Dracula, the gentleman and aristocrat with a commanding presence, was based on Stoker’s friend, the actor Henry Irving.
Stoker failed to follow proper copyright procedure at the time of publication, so the novel has been in public domain in the United States since its original publication, though in other countries it was copyrighted until 1962. The original 541 page manuscript of Dracula was believed to be lost. It was found in the 1980s in a barn in Pennsylvania, and is now in private hands.
Plot, Characters, Themes
The novel is in epistolary form, presenting a series of realistic diary entries, telegrams, letters, ships logs, newspaper clippings, etc. They focus around the protagonists, a solicitor named Jonathan Harker who travels to Count Dracula’s remote castle in the Carpathian Mountains, on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina and Moldavia, as Dracula is a client hoping to relocate to England. Harker realises he is a prisoner in the castle, and begins to see unnerving traits during the night. He discovers three female vampires in the castle, and is saved at the last second as Dracula intends to learn from him about England so he can travel there. Harker manages to escape.
A ship is wrecked on the shores of Whitby, and all the crew are missing. The captain’s log tells of strange events that occurred during the journey, suggesting a malevolent presence taking the lives of the sailors one by one. The cargo recovered consists of silver sand and boxes of Transylvanian earth.
Dracula goes in search of Harker’s fiancé Mina and her friend Lucy. The latter begins to waste away, and it becomes clear that Dracula is visiting her. Professor Abraham van Helsing is called in, who happens to be an expert on vampires. Lucy is attacked by a wolf, dies, and is buried, but comes back as a vampire. Van Helsing tracks her down and stakes her.
Harker and Mina arrive and along with Van Helsing, plot to kill Dracula. The Count finds out, drinks Mina’s blood and gives her some of his own, creating a bond so that he can control her. The group manage to sterilise Dracula’s London lairs, and the vampire returns to his Transylvanian castle. Mina is hypnotised by Van Helsing, and her telepathic link to Dracula allows them to gain information about him. They travel to Transylvania, and kill the three vampire women. They then kill Dracula, who crumbles to dust, and Mina is freed from him.
Bram Stoker is the creator of possibly the most famous Gothic horror character in history, the vampire Count Dracula.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
The first edition of Dracula (1897, Archibald Constable and Company, Westminster), went through multiple printings, impressions or issues. Whether a copy is the first edition first impression or a first edition later impression can have a significant effect on its value. In the case of Dracula, the issue can generally be ascertained by the presence or lack of a Shoulder of Shasta advertisement leaf, added to later issues.
First editions are worth infinitely more in their original bindings. Therefore it is not recommended to restore or rebind copies. Copies are also more valuable when a signature or inscription by Stoker is present.
Christie’s sold inscribed first editions of Dracula (1897) for £9,375 in November 2010, $17,500 in November 2011 and $47,800 in October 2002.
First editions without signatures have been sold by Christie’s for $10,158 in April 2002, and by Sothebys for $21,600 in December 2004 and $28,800 in April 2004.
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