Ominous Etchings
Illustration of Frankenstein novel

Visual interpretations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus abound across its 200-year history. Among the most striking are graphic artist Lynd Ward’s woodcut illustrations for the 1934 edition, released just a few years after the first Frankenstein film.

Ward, whom Pulitzer Prize–winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman called “one of America’s most distinguished and accomplished graphic novelists,” created these early in a career that spanned 50 years and influenced the development of graphic novels and the evolution of children’s literature. Today, Penn State’s Special Collections Library houses The Lynd Ward Collection of Wood Engravings and Other Graphic Art, comprising some 5,000 wood engravings, proof sheets, wood-engraving blocks, and original illustrations for many of his works, including Frankenstein.

Ward’s woodcut illustrations for Shelley’s novel, which he created by carving designs into wooden blocks and then inking and printing the raised areas, prominently feature the harsh landscape and ominous weather in which the novel is set.

Another highlight of the collection is the set of original illustrations for The Biggest Bear (Houghton Mifflin, 1952), which Ward wrote and illustrated and for which he received the 1953 Randolph Caldecott Medal, given by the American Library Association to the artist of the most distinguished children’s picture book.

Woodcut illustrations of Frankenstein novel