A very rare first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus electrified bidding at Heritage when it sold for $843,750 in their auction on June 27, 2024.

The Kern-Hersholt-Kettaneh three-volume set is an uncut copy in original pink boards, with printed spine labels and paper watermarked “1816.” Frankenstein was published by Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones in 1818 with a small print run of just 500 copies.

Mary Shelley was a 19th century novelist whose most famous work is still an important part of the 21st century pop culture lexicon. Shelley wrote her classic Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus when she was just 20 years old. Part gothic-romantic, part early science fiction, it tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who creates and animates a monstrous human-creature.

She met future husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, in 1814, and the pair left her home to travel around Europe. A year later, after the death of their first child, the Shelleys went to Switzerland with Lord Byron, Jane Clairmont, and John Polidori. During one rainy day, the group spent time reading ghost stories until Byron suggested that they write their own horror stories. It was then that she started writing Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, the story of a doctor whose ambition supersedes ethics when he uses the body parts of dead men to assemble and bring to life a new one. Frankenstein is recognized as the book that gave birth to the science fiction genre.

Frankenstein has been adapted dozens of times on film, starting with the 1910 silent film, featuring Augustus Phillips. The best known Frankenstein adaptation came in 1931, starring Boris Karloff as the Monster. The Universal hit was followed by multiple sequels, including The Bride of Frankenstein. Hammer Films released several Frankenstein movies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, featuring Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein. The most faithful adaptation to the book came in ’94 with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, starring Kenneth Branagh, Robert De Niro, and Helena Bonham Carter.