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University of Delaware Professor Charles E. Robinson settles the question of whether Mary Shelley really wrote Frankenstein and the extent to which Percy Shelley contributed to the novel:

Robinson returned to the Notebooks [his facsimile textual analysis of the original manuscripts] and stripped Percy out of the text altogether, leaving the reader alone with Mary’s voice. Robinson also included the text of the 1816-17 draft, with Percy’s edits clearly marked. The juxtaposition gives us a closer look at the creative give-and-take — word by word, sentence by sentence — of the Shelleys’ relationship.

The take-home lessons:

1. Frankenstein, the novel as we have known it, really is kind of a patched-together monster. Will the “original” become the preferred version now?

2. Speculation (see John Lauritsen) is no substitute for studying the actual manuscript(s):

“Digitals provide new opportunities for handwriting analysis, but it’s only in the originals that you can see the exact shade or color of the ink,” Robinson explains. “It’s the manuscript itself that provides the best evidence.”

With punctuation, too, Robinson sometimes found that only the actual manuscript could help him tell whether a dot was a period, a bleed-through from the other side of the page, or “an offset inkblot from the facing verso or the facing recto.”

“In my judgment, although the digitals have absolutely transformed research, they still must be tested by the originals,” Robinson says.

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