Anyone who loves Frankenstein like I love Frankenstein and hasn’t downloaded the NYPL’s second Biblion app will want to do so pronto, if for no other reason than to scroll through Mary Shelley’s handwritten draft. The programmers paired the manuscript, begun in 1816, “with a transcript of the novel’s 1831 edition so you can toggle… to see how Shelley changed and developed” the story over time.
Navigating these documents — and the app more generally — is not without its frustrations. The pages are crash-prone; the layout is sometimes confusing. And as Adi Robertson said at The Verge this summer, it can be difficult to decipher “the nearly 200-year-old script on the iPad’s display. Even scanned in decent resolution with a zoom tool, there’s just no way around the lack of contrast and tiny lettering.” But the handwritten text does provide “a great sense of Shelley’s flow while writing, something that the advent of the word processor made nearly invisible.”
Laura, my Chimerist co-conspirator, has read extensively on the Shelleys’ circle and that fateful summer on Lake Geneva, and pointed out at dinner last week that the essays don’t add much to the existing scholarship and commentary. My knowledge on the subject is a little more scattershot than hers is, so some of the ideas and images here were new to me. I learned a few things about the ways the novel and its author inspired later artists, including Boris Karloff and the photographer Moyra Davey, and I especially enjoyed Moeck’s “The Monster Reads Milton,” which was an excellent supplement to some of the reading I’ve been doing on modern philosophy and religion lately.
Luckily, Biblion is free. Or at least the only cost for trying it out is the space it takes up on your iPad.
— Maud Newton