Mary Shelley rare books and memorabilia
Mary Shelley rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to English writer Mary Shelley (née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin), (1797-1851). She is best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein (1818).
Mary Shelley was a novelist, short-story writer, travel writer, biographer, and essayist. She also promoted and edited the work of her lover and later husband, Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their secret love affair and elopement, leaving behind Shelley’s pregnant wife, was at the time scandalous and is now famous. The one night the two spent in a cabin on Lake Geneva, along with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont and Romantic celebrity and poet Lord Byron, was when Mary Shelley’s most famous work was first conceived. They were discussing Erasmus Darwin’s notions of re-animating and galvanism of the dead, and sitting around a log fire, read German ghost stories. They then decided to each write their own supernatural story, and Mary Shelley’s was Frankenstein. After Percy Shelley’s tragic early death, Mary decided to earn a living through writing, to support her son. Other of her notable works are the novel Mathilda (1820), her short stories, biographies and travelogues.
Types of rare books and memorabilia
- Frankenstein (1818) first edition, sold for $65,000 in October 2007.
- Frankenstein, 2 volumes, second edition (1823), in original publisher’s boards. Sold for £12,000 in March 2007.
- Frankenstein (1818) first edition, sold for $43,700 in May 1996, $50,000 in December 2009, $95,600 in December 2004.
- Frankenstein (1831) third edition, sold for $7,200 in June 2005.
- Frankenstein (1818) first edition in original publisher’s boards. Sold for £115,250 in October 2010.
- Frankenstein (1818) first edition rebound in leather. Sold for £66,000 in March 2005.
- Frankenstein (1823) second edition in original publisher’s boards. Sold for £13,750 in October 2010.
- Frankenstein (1831) third edition, sold for $7,500 in December 2009.
- The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830), first edition in original publisher’s boards. Sold for £3,750 in October 2010.
Documents, Autographs etc
- Handwritten manuscript poem on the death of her husband, sold for £7,170 in March 2004.
Guide for collectors
Frankenstein is by far the most collectible of Mary Shelley’s works. The first edition is three volumes. The second edition of Frankenstein (1823) is two volumes, and was the first to include Mary Shelley’s name and her preface, the first edition having been anonymous. The third edition (1831) was revised and corrected by Shelley herself, and the first to include illustrations of the monster and the author’s introduction, telling the story of how Frankenstein came about.
It is extremely rare to see copies surviving in their original bindings : paper boards or publisher’s cloth. This makes them more valuable, if not so attractive as those rebound in leather.
Letters, autographs and handwritten documents by Mary Shelley rarely come up for auction, but the interest surrounding her life means that many collectors are very keen to obtain these items.
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