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It is impossible to imagine a finer association...
September 20, 2012 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Lord Byron's copy of Frankenstein, inscribed by author Mary Shelley, is being offered for sale at Peter Harrington Books in London, where it will be on display from 26 Sept to 3 Oct. If you are interested in buying they are accepting offers in excess of 350,000. GBP ( about $568,000).

The only other known inscribed copy is in The Morgan Library in New York.
The Bodleian Library at Oxford has an excellent online exhibition on their collection of Shelleyana.
posted by Isadorady (26 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Normally these kind of exercises in purchasing exclusivity disgust me, but this is kind of making me tingle, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't kindle profound object lust.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:48 PM on September 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


It would be nice if a museum or library bought it...
posted by Isadorady at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2012


Meh, I'm holding out for the copy with bloodstains from Michael Crawford.
posted by The otter lady at 10:11 PM on September 20, 2012


(Or William Ashbless)
posted by The otter lady at 10:14 PM on September 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I know it's a starting bid but half a million dollars is a lot less than I'd expect for this book.

Nearly 200 year old rare book, invented a genre, inscribed by the author to her equally famous husband's equally famous poet friend.

It's got to go for millions, right?
posted by thecjm at 11:01 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Frankenstein (Ms. Shelley's invention) is one of the the great stories, throws long shadows indeed. I don't think you can put a dollar value on this kind of seminal impact. So just give it to me. I promise not to read it in the bath.
posted by philip-random at 11:06 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


It would be nice if a museum or library bought it...

I suppose, but it's mainly a collector's curiosity unless someone has written something more substantive than “To Lord Byron from the Author” in it. A museum or library can do a lot with £350,000+. That other inscribed copy you link to, with "my voice became broken..." and I don't know what else added in pen, looks like it would be a much better purchase. As the web page says, "This copy preserves her autograph changes to the first edition, making the volume an important witness to her creative process."
posted by pracowity at 11:09 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Morgan Library Museum is really neat. I'd advise anyone who happens to be in that area to take a look if you have $15 bucks buring a hole in your pocket.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:42 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If Mary Shelley had drawn this on the flyleaf, now that would make some scholars scratch their heads! Especially if she'd signed it to "Byron, You Ass."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:53 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's nice when objects of historic value remain available to the public like the cup of Spyros Louis recently. Buying the book to keep it hidden in some private collection would be, to paraphrase Wilde, knowing the price of the item but not its symbolic value.
posted by ersatz at 4:20 AM on September 21, 2012


Let me fix that for you: ..inscribed by the author to her equally famous husband's equally famous poet "friend" if you-know-what-I-mean

On topic, I think it is time I look into playing the lottery or possibly a meteoric career in hedge fund management. That book needs to be mine. I will hug it and squeeze it and call it George (and never has that quote been more apt).
posted by kariebookish at 4:35 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's mainly a collector's curiosity unless someone has written something more substantive than “To Lord Byron from the Author”

Pracowity makes a good point. Speaking as somebody whose job it is to acquire rare books for a library, this situation is definitely the toughest call to make. Acquisitions can have both research value and display value, and both factors are certainly important, but research value is where you want to spend most of your money. The Byron Frankenstein has a display value that is off the charts: people would flock to your library to see it, and you could wow visiting dignitaries with it until the end of time. But once you've seen the inscription, there's very little left to know about it--it's not even a complete set, just the first volume. And of course, you always pay a huge premium for things with massive display value, and if you have a limited budget (which everybody does) that's a lot of research value you aren't buying.

On the other hand, having a few spectacular objects to get people's attention is very important, and if it's really central to your collecting interests and you have the money, it may make sense to get it anyway. We were in a similar situation at my library a couple of years ago, when the chance came up to buy a book with an equally spectacular presentation inscription (not quite this expensive, but still very pricy) but no other research value. Ultimately we decided to go for it, figuring that this was exactly what the donors who gave us the endowment would have wanted us to get. (Then the sale fell through for unrelated reasons, but it turned out to be a valuable thought experiment.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:06 AM on September 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm sure the Kindle version will only be 300000 euros.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:14 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is at this point that I would like to make some clever allusion to Arcadia but it seems a little obscure.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:30 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fascinating learning for me:

Byron's library was only 5 boxes of books?
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:12 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's mainly a collector's curiosity unless someone has written something more substantive than “To Lord Byron from the Author”

research value is where you want to spend most of your money

I guess I was thinking that if I was the Bodleian (which would make for a very interesting life in an alternate universe where we could BE a library) I would probably want this for my Shelley collection. But then, if I was a gazillionaire I would really like this for my Isadorady collection,too. As long as the shipping was free.
posted by Isadorady at 8:48 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be nice if a museum or library bought it...

As the infamous Professor Henry Jones, Jr. of the University of Chicago was once overheard pontificating, "That belongs in a museum!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2012


Only $568,000? I'll take two.
posted by jedicus at 10:55 AM on September 21, 2012


To Lord Byron -- here's my book about an amoral genius whose irresponsibility brings pain and destruction to everyone around him. Where do I get my ideas?
posted by Zed at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


drewbage1847, that's a traveling library. And many books were wee-er then.
posted by Scram at 4:27 PM on September 21, 2012


Also, supposedly the book was written as a horror writing contest between a group of friends - Shelly and Byron among them - at Byron's prompting. It probably wouldn't have been written otherwise.
posted by waitingtoderail at 6:11 PM on September 21, 2012


> "Byron's library was only 5 boxes of books?"

What's more, those books were not mentioned in his will, which is clear evidence that his works were all actually written by Keats following the suspicious "death by tuberculosis".
posted by kyrademon at 4:52 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what happened to the other volumes in the set. ('Those volumes of Frankenstein? Oh, I threw them away. They can't have been worth much -- after all, the first volume was missing, and some guy had scribbled all over the margins.')

I'm also curious to know where it's been all these years. There's been some speculation that it might have belonged to Byron's publisher John Murray, whose descendant John Murray VI might have given it to Douglas Jay. But it's hard to imagine such an important literary relic being casually given away.
posted by verstegan at 6:53 AM on September 22, 2012


Let me fix that for you: ..inscribed by the author to her equally famous husband's equally famous poet "friend" if you-know-what-I-mean

I want the Shelley/Shelley/Byron/Polidori clusterfucked-road trip/sex comedy movie so much. The dry Dover introduction to Polidori's The Vampyre is already COMEDY GOLD. byron's comically oversized luxury-carriage omg
posted by nicebookrack at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2012


Kate Beaton demonstrates the available lulz
posted by nicebookrack at 3:56 PM on September 22, 2012


Catalog (PDF) from Peter Harrington with more historical detail.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:02 AM on September 25, 2012


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