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At the time of its publication, Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein was met with mixed — and sexist — reviews. “The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel,” read one write-up for The British Critic. Now, more than 200 years later, a rare first edition of the gothic masterpiece has become the most expensive printed work by a woman ever sold at auction.
One of 500 original copies published on January 1, 1818, the book fetched $1.17 million at a Christie’s sale in New York City last week, nearly four times its high estimate of $300,000. It was part of the collection of the late American cable television executive Theodore B. Baum, whose impressive library of literary first editions included original works by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf, among others. Another highlight of the sale was an inscribed first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that sold for $275,000, setting an auction record for the epistolary novel.
Baum’s copy of Frankenstein was especially coveted, Christie’s says, because it is uncut in the original boards (a pasteboard binding typical of 18th-century books and desirable feature for collectors). The edition, which includes a preface written by Mary’s husband, poet Percy Shelley, and a dedication to the author’s father, William Godwin, is the only set in original boards to appear at auction since 1985.
Considered today to be the first science-fiction novel, Shelley’s story was not particularly attractive to publishing houses at the time of its writing. The manuscript was turned down by two publishers before it was accepted by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones, which “dealt mainly in cheap books,” according to biographer Miranda Seymour. She got a third of the profits, but none of the renown; some readers surmised it was a man’s work, and many question its authorship to this day.
“The author, by a convention of the time, would remain anonymous,” Seymour writes. “This was unfortunate for Mary: with her husband writing the Preface, references to his ‘friend’ seemed a thin disguise for the fact that he had written the novel himself.”
Archeologists can now prove the Vikings made landfall in the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus reached the Bahamas.
This week, the National Gallery of Art finally acquired a major work by Faith Ringgold, the director of The Velvet Underground talks film, North America’s Hindu Nationalist problem, canceling legacy admissions, and more.
No Vacancy, curated by Jody Graf, will be on view from October 26 through November 8 at the school’s Kellen Gallery in New York City.
Sculptures of Oaxacan alebrijes, envisioned as guardians of the nation’s immigrant community, and catrinas, Day of the Dead skeletons, are now at Rockefeller Center.
“I am trying to keep the immediacy of my emotional experience while I’m painting.”
Art by Athena LaTocha, Wendy Red Star, Marianne Nicolson, Anita Fields, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith & Neal Ambrose-Smith, and more is on view through January 2022.
The intention behind the seemingly bizarre combination was, according to Attie, “to give visual form to the shared American and Brazilian reality of nationalistic divisions that defines our political present.”
Nowhere in the museums’ advertising blitzkrieg for the performance were we told to bring our wildfire-season masks as well as our covid masks, and covid masks don’t prevent smoke inhalation.