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133172 133172_1 133172_2

Frankenstein, ou Le Prométhée Moderne....

Dédié à William Godwin, Auteur de la Justice Politique, de Caleb Williams, etc. Par Mme. Shelly [sic], sa nièce. Traduit de l'Anglais par J. S.***

Availability: In stock

Published: Paris Corréard, 1821

Stock Code: 133172

OR On display in 100 Fulham Road


First French edition, the second edition overall. This rare edition also constitutes the first public acknowledgement of Mary Shelley as an author a feature commonly claimed for the 1823 second (English) edition. Though Mary's name is misspelled and she is misdescribed as the "niece" of William Godwin, this unauthorized public acknowledgement was nonetheless unique for Mary during the lifetime of her husband Percy Bysshe.
This translation by Jules Saladin of Mary Shelley's masterpiece "remains to this day the only French translation of the 1818 text" (Rouhette). It was the first translation in any language and sole translation produced in the 19th century. It was produced at a time when it was common practice for French translators to alter the source text by adding, omitting or simply rewriting parts to suit the standards of contemporary French readers. Although Saladin stands clear of such rash practices, he did however succumb to the appeal of "magification", translating "chemistry" as "alchimie", and bringing "un fantôme" where Shelley described the Creature as "a figure". Similarly, where "Shelley carefully distinguishes between natural, unnatural and supernatural elements in her story, the word 'unnatural' is systematically translated by Saladin as 'surnaturel', a word also used, correctly this time, for 'supernatural', so that the difference between the two disappears." (Rouhette)
Saladin's choice to subtly favour a supernatural approach, in preference for the author's attention to science, might be explained by the early 19th-century readership's appetite for gothic novels. Indeed, published in July 1821, Frankenstein was immediately turned into a play the following month, as announced in Le Miroir des spectacles, des lettres, des mœurs et des arts: "Mr Maelzel, the famous manufacturer of automaton, is, we're being assured, in charge of providing the actor who will play the 8-foot tall man, in the melodrama imitated from Mrs. Shelly's novel". This revokes the common claims that Peake's 1823 Presumption or the Fate of Frankenstein was the first theatrical version of the novel.
Like the 1818 original, the publication of this translation was met with negative reviews, notably in La Revue Encyclopédique calling it a "bizarre production from a diseased imagination", regretting that "the author did not apply her talent to a production more reasonable and worthy of interest", and lamenting that this work offered a "revolting and hideous" story in spite of the expectation that a woman's work would present "lovely and gracious pictures". Consequently the edition sunk with barely a trace and is now rare: we have only been able to trace copies held at Paris, Lille, Yale, and Munich, and none at auction.

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3 vols. in 1, duodecimo (164 x 98 mm) in eights and fours. Contemporary pale tan sheep-backed marbled boards, red morocco label, spine with double gilt rules and decorative roll at foot.


With the half-titles.


Skilful restoration to rear joint and foot of spine, vol. I, leaf 17/1 with paper flaw at inner margin costing a couple of letters either side, vol. II half-title with paper flaw just touching two letters, overall an excellent copy.


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