Mary Shelley's First Edition of 'Frankenstein' Sells for Record-Breaking $1.17 Million

Mary Shelley's first edition of Frankenstein, which is one of the blueprints for gothic horror novels, was sold at auction for $1.17 million. Fine Books Magazine reported this set a record for a printed work by a woman.

Originally thought to have fetched an estimated bid between $200,000 and $300,000, auctioneer Gemma Sudlow of the auction house Christie's received bids from all over the world.

Many know of the classic novel that was created at Lake Geneva when Shelley, her husband Percy Shelley and Lord Byron wrote their own ghost stories. It was first published anonymously on January 1, 1818.

According to the description written on the auction website, Shelley wrote a preface to the 1831 edition.

"I busied myself to think of a story,—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task," she wrote. "One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart."

The first edition novel, whose three volumes were featured in a blue-grey hardcover, was part of the live sale of Theodore Baum's literature collection. According to the auction page on Christie's, the sale total was $6.7 million.

Heather Weintraub, the book and manuscript specialist for Christie's, told Newsweek there were eight active bidders on the first edition of Frankenstein. Bidding started at around $200,000.

It was a heated auction and lasted about five and a half hours before the winning bid came through at $1.17 million.

"We are thrilled with the new world auction record it achieved for a printed work by a woman," Weintraub said.

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A winning bid came through at $1.17 million for a first edition copy of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" at a recent auction. The inside of a first edition of Shelley's classic, "Frankenstein." Photo Courtesy of Christie’s LTD

Because the book was "incredibly fragile," Weintraub told Newsweek, first editions are very scarce.

"It is more common rebound in leather, so a copy like this, particularly in fine condition, is highly desirable to collectors," she said.

According to Penta, a section of financial and investment news outlet Barron's, Baum was a pioneer in the cable television industry. He died in August.

"Mr. Baum built his library over the course of decades, waiting patiently for each title to come on the market, either through private dealers or at auction," Weintraub said. "Nearly every book shares remarkable condition and impeccable provenance."

Baum's library was extensive and the auction included literary classics familiar to many. Other books that literature buffs would have recognized in the auction included first editions of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Pride and Prejudice sold for $112,500 and Sense and Sensibility sold for $118,750.

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The three volumes of Mary Shelley's first edition of "Frankenstein." The works were a part of Theodore Baum's literature collection. Photo Courtesy of Christie’s LTD