If there’s one thing librarians would appreciate you not do when you borrow a book, it’s start scribbling in it, and yet the London Library in Mayfair is very pleased to have found a number of books that have been annotated by their reader. Who is this rapscallion who dare deface a borrowed book? None other than the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker.
As Londonist reports, 28 books have been discovered during a research effort lead by Paul Spedding. They were seemingly used by Stoker as he researched his now classic book Dracula in 1897. Stoker was a businessman living in Chelsea at the time and and joined the library in 1890 at the proposal of Hall Caine, whom Stoker dedicated Dracula to. The gothic horror novel may now be considered a classic, but it seems Stoker wasn’t highly praised for his writing prior to Dracula’s publication. “Stoker was a dreadful writer. His other stuff is dreadful,” said Spedding.
One of the books Stoker borrowed include The Book of Werewolves by Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, which is full of pencil marks and annotations which closely follow parts of Dracula. Stoker often marked passages relating to life and death and next to one line that states the human instinct is to “extinguish life”, Stoker has written, and then scribbled out, “Bosh!” Spedding went on to say that the research would’ve been easier had Stoker’s handwriting not been so awful.
Though Dracula is set in Transylvania, Stoker never actually visited and instead used contemporary sources to research the place. Interestingly, in a copy of An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia by William Wilkinson, Stoker has folded the corner of the page where the name Dracula is used.
Dracula may be the most iconic novel involving the vampire, but Stoker was far from the only writer in the genre. Spedding stated he believes Dracula owes its success to the fact it’s endlessly reinterpret-able from generation to generation. “Hotel Transylvania 3 came out this year. It did $500m business,” said Spedding.
The researchers can’t be totally sure the notes were written by Stoker, given that the library didn’t keep borrowing records then, but it is worth noting that, in 1897, Stoker wrote to his bankers to tell them to stop paying his fee to the London Library. This is the same date Dracula was published and so it seems his research was complete.
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