The New Annotated Dracula
Edited by Leslie S. Klinger
Published 2008 611 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
For over a century readers of Dracula have been seduced by the story of Jonathan Harker’s visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Soon after Harker’s hair-raising escape, a mysterious Russian ship runs aground in England with the blood-sucking Dracula on board.
Little does Mina Murray, Harker’s fiancée, know that her good friend Lucy Westenra is already succumbing to the vampire’s assault, despite the valiant effort of the Dutch doctor Abraham Van Helsing. Then Mina falls prey to the Count. No devoted reader can forget the dramatic hunt by Van Helsing, the Harkers, and their friends to seek out and destroy Dracula before Mina’s horrifying transformation into a vampire is completed.
Now for the first time, an annotated edition examines all of the evidence, including contemporary travel books, scientific texts, Victorian encyclopedias, as well as Stoker’s own notes for the narrative and the manuscript itself.
The New Annotated Dracula (so titled to differentiate it from previous editions of annotated Dracula texts) is a staggeringly huge hardback volume containing a comprehensively annotated version of the classic Victorian horror novel Dracula as written by Bram Stoker. This volume is edited and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger who has previous form (as cops are so fond of saying in crime dramas) in the shape of 2004’s well received three volume work The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. An acknowledged expert on Victorian literature and the Victorian era he breathes new life into Stoker’s classic vampire tale which can sometimes seem clunky and incomprehensible to modern readers.
While there have been several previous annotated versions of Dracula, Klinger has approached the subject from a different angle to previous editors by taking the view that the Dracula text is actually a record of factual events. This isn’t as batty as it sounds - as he explains in the volume’s preface, ‘I examined Stoker’s published compilation of letters, journals, and recordings as Stoker wished: I employ a gentle fiction here… that the events described in Dracula “really took place” and that the work presents the recollections of real persons, whom Stoker has renamed and whose papers… he has recast, ostensibly to conceal their identities.’
From this premise Klinger examines every aspect of the Dracula text from train journey times, to hotels, to the identity of the Count, he leaves no stone unturned (or no text uncommented) in his search for the facts. His interest in this edition has been to comment on the facts of the story and he doesn’t get caught up in any of the sub-texts that have proved so fascinating to anyone who has ever written a paper on Dracula. Klinger had access to Bram Stoker’s original manuscript which he compares with the final printed text as well as the text of later abridged versions and foreign translations.
While readers can learn a huge amount about the Dracula text itself perhaps more is gained through Klinger’s thorough explanations of Victorian life - meaning that the average reader (who isn’t a Victorian era expert) can now understand the context of the story in its setting. Explanations of everything from the bizarre non-standardised time zones of Victorian Europe (what time is 15 degrees east of Greenwich, exactly?) combined with details of subjects as diverse as premature burial prevention and bicycles make for fascinating reading.
In addition to the Dracula text and its annotations this volume also contains Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest text (a short story) with similar detailed comments. In the second part of the volume various essays examine subjects such as Dracula’s existence after Stoker’s death, some of the sub-texts of the narrative and Dracula through the media of stage and screen, to mention but a few.
In addition to the 1,500 annotations contained in this amazing volume there are also 400 illustrations, mostly in black and white but with some in colour. The illustrations include diagrams, maps, playbills, advertisements and photographs of subjects related to the annotations of the Dracula text.
So, in summing up - no fan of the Dracula novel should be without this annotated volume. It will also be of interest to anyone who enjoys Victorian literature and the Victorian era of history (even if they aren’t a huge vampire fan). In-depth, fascinating and comprehensive - what more can I say?
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You can find out more about this book and the work of Leslie S. Klinger at his website. Visit Leslie’s site.