Ruth Mortimer Frankenstein collection
Scope and Contents
Dates of Materials
- 1824 - 1993
- Mortimer, Ruth, 1931-1994 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Biographical / Historical
Ruth Mortimer began her career with rare books while an undergraduate at Smith College, working as an assistant in the Rare Book Room until her graduation summa cum laude in 1953. She went on to obtain a masters degree in Library Science from Columbia University. From 1957 to 1975 she worked at the Houghton Library at Harvard University, producing two remarkable catalogues of their sixteenth-century French and Italian books. French Sixteenth-Century Books, the first catalogue, was chosen by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the Fifty Books of the Year for 1964.
In 1975 she returned to Smith College, where she served as curator of rare books until her death in January 1994. While curator, she was instrumental in obtaining the Sylvia Plath Collection and the Frances Hooper Collection of Virginia Woolf. She also taught a course in the art department on the history of books and printing, which utilized the Rare Book Room's holdings. The rare book collection was named in her honor in 1994. Ruth Mortimer was also fascinated with the publishing history of Frankenstein and collected subsequent editions, secondary material, videos, audiocassettes, and ephemera for fifteen years.
MARY SHELLEY, 1797-1851
Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on 30 August 1797, the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, the classic manifesto of sexual equality, and William Godwin, radical political philosopher and author of Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. She published her first book at the age of eleven, Mounseer Nongtongpaw, a rhyming children's story, under the imprint of the Juvenile Library, her stepmother's publishing house. She was first to meet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1812, and eloped with him to the continent in July 1814, although they would not be married until after the suicide of his first wife in December 1816. Their first child was born prematurely and died in March 1815.
In 1816 the couple moved to Bishopsgate, where their second child was born in January 1816. Shortly thereafter the family travelled to Geneva to meet Lord Byron. It was during this house party that Byron made the suggestion that each guest write a ghost story. Mary Shelley began a short story which she expanded into the novel Frankenstein. The novel was finished in 1817, and while she was waiting for it to be published, she finished a work entitled History of a Six Weeks' Tour. The History was published in November, two months after the birth of her third child. Frankenstein was an immediate success following its publication on 1 January 1818, and the title pages of all her subsequent works read "by the author of Frankenstein." In September 1818 and June 1819, both her children died. Shelley continued to write, producing an unfinished novella, Matilda, a historical novel, Valperga, and blank verse adaptations of Ovid's Prosperine and Midas. She also gave birth to a fourth child, the only one to reach adulthood, Percy Florence Shelley.
In June 1822, Shelley suffered a miscarriage, and on 8 July 1822, Percy Shelley drowned while sailing in the Gulf of Spezia. Forced to agree not to publish any of Percy Shelley's work during her father-in-law's lifetime, she continued to write periodical essays in The Liberal and novels, The Last Man (1826) and Perkin Warbeck (1830). In 1831, Frankenstein appeared in a best-selling single volume version. In 1834, she was commissioned to write biographical sketches for Rev. Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopedia. She continued to write sketches for subsequent volumes until 1839, and also published another novel, Faulkner in 1837. Her father-in-law's prohibition lifted, she then began to edit a four-volume edition of the complete works of her husband, despite declining health. Her last work was published in 1844, an account of a tour of the continent made with her son and his college friends, Rambles in Germany and Italy. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley died in London on 1 February 1851 at the age of 53.
5 boxes (1 linear feet)
Language of Materials
- I. Cassettes, Audio and Visual, 1979-1993
- II. Catalogs
- III. Craft Books, 1978-1983
- IV. Ephemera, 1824-1993
- V. Software, 1992-1993
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Ruth Mortimer Frankenstein collection
- Finding Aid
- Compiled by Hannah M. Stott-Bumsted
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2005-09-23: manoscmr13 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
- 2020-07-22: Description added for born-digital content.
- 2020-12-04: Added box 5
Part of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063