Mary Shelley’s First Edition of Frankenstein Sells for $1.17 Million

By Lori Perkins


Billed as the highest amount of money ever paid for a published work by a woman, Christie’s auction house in London announced the sale of an almost pristine edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, bound with its original boards. All the articles emphasized that the sale price was exponentially higher than the anticipated $200,000 to $300,000.


Personally, I am just amazed that the auction house was unaware of how important this book is to the overall history of literature. The articles seemed to dwell on the fact that it was the highest price paid for a book published by a female author, and did not acknowledge that this book is the foundation of both modern science fiction and horror. The auction house seemed blinded by the author’s gender and the overall disdain many literary folks have for the genre. Guess they didn’t get the memo that the future is female!


Only 500 copies of the very first edition of Frankenstein were ever printed. That this edition also had the unbroken binding boards made it even more valuable.


Shelly later rewrote some of the passages in the novel and released a second edition, which is what we have all read.


As the British press so enthusiastically reported, the previous world record for a printed work by a woman was for a first edition of Jane Austen’s 1816 novel Emma which sold for $205,000 in 2008.


The highest amount ever paid for a published book was $35 million for a first edition of The Book of Mormon in 2018.