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January 1, 2018 marks the 200th birthday of one of the most famous works of literature in the English language—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus.
The story of this famous work’s conception is outdone only by the book itself. Mary Shelley—then, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin—first conceived of the novel in a competition with other famous writers of the era, including Lord Byron and her future husband, Percy Shelley. The challenge? Who could come up with the best horror story. Needless to say, Mary Shelley won. Shelley was only twenty years old when Frankenstein was published anonymously, but she managed to create what some argue is the first true science fiction story. Since Frankenstein’s publication, it has inspired countless horror stories, Frankenstein copy-cat plots, and it has advanced the conceptual ground of science fiction itself.
Want to see the text that started it all? You’re in luck—Bancroft Archive has a first edition in the vault. This might not be practical for reading, however, so you can also head to Main Stacks for a copy that you can check out: