[SHELLEY, Mary]. [Frontispiece to Frankenstein. Taken from the 1831 edition.] 17cm x 10.5cm
17cm x 10.5cm, mounted on card 41cm x 30cm. Original frontispiece from Frankenstein, 1831.
This loose frontispiece is from the 1831 printing of Frankenstein, and is the first published depiction of Frankenstein and his monster. In 1831, the publishers Richard Bentley and Henry Colburn were giving way to a demand for single volume editions of popular books, and they fleshed out the value of those books by providing an illustration or two for each one. For Frankenstein, they hired Theodor von Holst, a young up-and-comer who eventually went on to a successful career but is perhaps best known for this single image. Cruel fate being what it is, very few of these books survived — even fewer retained their illustrations in any decent condition.
This illustration is an oddity, because it survived separate from the text. Clearly someone removed it from the book at some point in the distant past, perhaps not realising the book itself would become so valuable. Consider that even if one did possess the actual 1831 text, you'd never get to look at the illustration because it would…well, be trapped inside a notoriously fragile and expensive book. And no-one in their right mind is cutting one of these out in the modern era, because it would be sacrilege. A curiosity unlikely to appear again.