In the summer of 1816, teenage Mary Shelley dreamed up a monster. She had embarked on a visit to Switzerland with her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. They joined their friends, Lord Byron and John Polidori, and settled into a summer of dark and stormy nights. The group of radically and artistically minded friends had planned a trip enjoying the outdoors, but the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora a year earlier led to an unprecedented period of global cooling. 1816 would become known as “the year without a summer.”

Cooped indoors during the dreary weather, the group entertained themselves by reading ghost stories. Having exhausted their supply of spooky tales, they devised a friendly competition. Whoever wrote the best ghost story would win. Mary suffered several days of writer’s block, but eventually, the dark atmosphere of that stormy summer gave her the inspiration she needed. Unable to sleep, Mary had a “waking dream,” a vision of a young scientist granting life to a monster.

Two years later, she anonymously published Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus. Mary’s idea for a short story to stave off summer boredom had evolved into what is arguably the most influential horror novel of all time. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication, and the event is being celebrated with a stunning new edition of the the historic work.

Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition is the newest release in Rockport Publishing’s Classics Reimagined series. The collection features artist illustrated, unabridged classic novels.  Their new edition of Frankenstein is as gorgeous as they come. It’s a dream addition to any horror or literature fan’s bookshelf.

 

 

Attention to Detail

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Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition is illustrated by David Plunkert. His art, and the book’s exquisite design, combine to make this the truly exceptional edition it is. The 200th Anniversary Edition features a beautiful attention to detail that evokes antique publications and gothic decay. Painted endpapers echo those that grace antique novels, suggesting traditional marble designs but also rot and ruin. It’s a perfect evocation of the novel’s exploration on mortality, creation, and corruption.

 

Stunning collages of 19th century botanical and anatomical illustrations introduce each volume of the novel. Scalpels, saws, and other tools of early surgery spell out the numbers of each volume. It’s a wonderful touch and an example of the creativity employed by Plunkert in all his work in the novel. The theme of Victorian scientific thought — and it’s dark underbelly — is present throughout Plunkert’s illustrations. His designs frequently recall vintage anatomy illustrations. These inspirations are ideal companions to Shelley’s vision of science gone too far.

Scenes of Horror

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The edition features plentiful, full page illustrations of key scenes. Small, evocative illustrations accompanying the text punctuate the big moments. The combination grounds the narrative and the emotional arc of the story. Plunkert’s illustrations use his collage inspired style to perfectly capture the dark, unhinged events of the novel.

 

The monster is brilliantly depicted. Keeping very true to the description of the text, Plunkert gives us a creature far removed from the popular image of Frankenstein’s monster born of the movies. Instead, an uncannily proportioned, unnerving creature haunts the pages. The illustrations of the monster adds appropriate horror to his presence in the story.

Among the consistently excellent illustrations, several scenes stand out as particularly unsettling. The monster’s grotesque hand looms in the foreground as he confronts his creator on a mountain in one. The creature menaces over the shadowed figure of a frightened boy in another. And a gorgeous, two page tableaux ends volume two of the novel; White, cracked silhouettes of the the monster and his creator crossing a silhouetted landscape against black. It’s a beautiful scene, indicative of the quality of design and vision provided by Plunkert throughout this edition.

A Fitting Celebration

The influence of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel can not be overstated. It’s impact on science fiction, gothic literature, and of course horror, is indisputable. The 200th anniversary marks a significant landmark in the history of the genre. Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition  is an ideal way to celebrate this monumental work.

Plunkert’s illustrations and the book’s presentation superbly reflect the complex themes and unparalleled atmosphere of Shelley’s masterpiece. Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition is an absolute must own for horror fans and lovers of literature alike. Look for Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition available January 16, 2018, wherever books are sold.

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