Destination Special Collections

It is well known that the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, was inspired by many ideas in popular culture during the early 1800s. Paradise Lost was an extremely popular book amongst Romantic poets like her husband Percy Shelley and her friend Lord Byron, and is a clear influence on the novel. Scientists were also publishing new studies on electricity around this time, and many artists found it to be an interesting subject matter.


The illustration on the left of this copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, depicts the moment the creature awoke and his creator fled from the room. The illustration on the right depicts Victor Frankenstein at a young age leaving his family to study abroad. This is the first illustrated edition, and third publication of the book. It is bound with the unfinished novel The Ghost-Seer by Friedrich Schiller, which contains many similar elements to Frankenstein, including necromancy.

Find Frankenstein and The Ghost-Seer! in the UNT Library Catalog.

Paradise Lost

This copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost contains 24 illustrations created especially for this publication, by famed British artist John Martin. Influences from this epic poem, detailing the biblical creation and fall of man, are evident throughout Frankenstein. Shelley included a line from the poem on the title page of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein,

“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay

To mould me man? Did I solicit thee

From darkness to promote me?”


During the mid 1700s, scientists were conducting a great number of experiments related to electricity, with Benjamin Franklin famously discovering that lightning is an electrical phenomenon by tying a key to a kite string. Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity is the first publication to prove lighting is an electrical phenomenon.

Michael Faraday worked on the topic of electromagnetism, which would become the basis for electric motors. Faraday’s Experimental Researches in Electricity brought together ideas about supposedly different types of electricity, and provided the basis for research by future scientists.

Find Experimental Researches in Electricity vol 1, vol2, vol 3, and Experiments and Observations on Electricity in the UNT Library Catalog.

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