A new Dundee Edition of Frankenstein celebrating author Mary Shelley’s links to the city is to be published and distributed free to local schoolchildren later this year.
The book - which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the classic Gothic novel’s publication - will comprise the complete 1818 text of the ground-breaking science fiction novel as well as dozens of commissioned images produced by award-winning local comics artists.
Shelley spent two years living in Dundee’s South Baffin Street as a teenager after her father William Godwin sent her to live with the wealthy jute baron Baxter family.
This spell would profoundly influence Shelley, as she later acknowledged: “It was beneath the trees of the grounds belonging to our house, or on the bleak sides of the woodless mountains near, that my true compositions, the airy flights of my imagination, were born and fostered.”
The tale of the young scientist Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster was published anonymously on 1 January 1818 when Shelley was aged 18. Her name appeared on the second edition.
Dr Daniel Cook, of the University of Dundee’s English department, who is editing and introducing the book, said: “Frankenstein is one of the most influential novels ever written.
“It is studied in schools and universities across the English-speaking world, and everyone is in some way familiar with the story of the god-like scientist and his monstrous creation, through movies, caricatures or popular culture more generally.
“We are very excited to build on the existing scholarship around Mary Shelley’s time here and to bring out this special edition. By circulating free copies in print and online we hope even more people will be inspired by the novel, and connect it more firmly with the place where it all began for the young Shelley – Dundee in 1812.”
Broadcaster Billy Kay, who is currently working on a BBC Scotland radio documentary exploring Mary Shelley’s Dundee, will provide the foreword.
The new edition of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus will be released online in a downloadable format while thousands of hard copies will be printed and given to schoolchildren in Dundee and the surrounding areas.
The project is funded by the Art and Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) as part of the university’s ongoing involvement with the national Being Human Festival of the Humanities.
Since 2015, Dr Cook and a team of staff and students from across the university have partnered with local institutions to host a series of activities under the auspices of Being Human, including ‘Frankenstein Begins; or, Mary Shelley’s Dundee’ (2015), ‘HG Wells at 150: Hope and Fear’ (2016), and, most recently, ‘Swift at 350: Lost and Found’.
The Frankenstein-themed events have proven to be particularly successful.
In addition to producing a full-length comic book entitled Frankenstein Begins, the team have showcased their work nationally and internationally.
A sequel to the comic, Frankenstein Returns, will also be launched to tie in with the publication of the new edition.