About This Book

The creature standing over a body. A Nino Carbe illustration.

illustration by Nino Carbe (p. 232)

Frankenstein Illustrated

This edition was published during a revamp in interest in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus after the making of the first sound adaptation of Frankenstein by Universal Studios, directed by James Whale. The movie was influenced by a recent play adaptation by Peggy Webling where we also see the first instance of Frankenstein’s creature being called Frankenstein. This book was published the following year in 1932 and shows a distinct influence from this era of horror movies as it was not only the first Frankenstein to have illustrations since it’s first 1831 edition, but these pictures themselves show influence from the recent horror craze in way of having the creature appear similar to Dracula, a recent and extremely popular movie icon, or more accurately Nosferatu, with his fangs and long fingers and nails.

These artworks were done by an immigrant artist named Nino Carbe, who would later move on to work for Disney, but during his time with Frankenstein he situated illustrations at the end of most chapters, each one providing a new interpretation of the last recent scene. And each picture is formed by way of black and white ink cross-hatching  and woodblock prints style art to create dark, gothic, nightmarish scenes. These images can be seen as resembling styles of recent cinema hits. Unlike the green monster we often mistake for Frankenstein, this creature’s form is much more human-like, though the creature in this edition is created with grotesque features like fanged teeth, resembling again the modern vampire. Interestingly enough this came just a year after the first movie adaptation of  Frankenstein (1931) which popularized our common conception of the monster as a patched together being with little human resemblance.

Carbe’s depiction is distinctly human, giving thought to the idea that the monster is really just an unfortunate creation. Most of these drawings render a character and will often show through expressive illustration the emotions from a certain scene, and accompanied with the darker aspects, the monster’s pain of ostracization is brought forth even stronger. The depiction of the monster as a man could have been influenced by the recent movie adaptation or from Carbe’s desire to make him more relatable. But whatever the reason this book was meant to last.

It’s unclear if the book would have ever held a fancy dust jacket like many of its later reincarnations will, but as it stands it has a plain, maroon cover that is worn around the corners likely due to frequent handling. It stands to reason with such a hit the movie was, this book reprint would have also been extremely popular, seeing many hands. So popular that it managed to spawn numerous reprints; reprints that in later years even received a version with exclusive illustrations from Nino Carbe. In fact this book has even been in this library’s hold for decades, since 1968 at least, and has been checked out numerous times. Although, without an eye catching cover the version held at this library has likely never graced the POP book section in quite a while,, but its fame and prestige still hold out through today.