One of the only books never to be out of print since its first publication in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has appeared in hundreds of editions worldwide. To the collector, early editions are highly sought-after, not only for their antiquarian book value at auction, but oftentimes, for the peculiar details of the edition itself: from the color of its binding to the illustrations or designs on the cover boards. But a study of the physical evolution of the editions themselves can reveal popular culture’s changing attitudes toward the character of Dracula.
Confusion abounds as to the true first edition, and many people, even seasoned collectors, are often fooled by reprints that carry only the 1897 date (like the 1927 “Stageplay edition”).
My concern is not with the authenticity of early editions or even their value, but of the early illustrations that appeared on the cover of these books. From the black and white line illustration of Dracula scaling the walls of his castle from the relatively rare 1901 edition, to the modern printings that include works of artists like Edward Gorey and Greg Hildebrandt, the depictions of Dracula on the covers and within the pages of the many editions that have appeared over the years are quite telling as they provide a glimpse into changing attitudes toward the infamous Count.
Of particular interest to me (mostly because I own it) is the Second American Edition of Dracula published by Doubleday, Page and Co. in 1902.
[note: the following information about images available online was true in 2012, but as time has passed, more sellers have come online and the red cloth cover (destination of updated link below) is now part of wikimedia commons!]
It is curious that the red cloth cover to a 1902 / 1903 reprint of the second American Edition is the only image like it readily found online. But an image of the green cloth binding of the first printing of the second American edition, to my knowledge, has never been readily available, either as a scan posted by a secondhand bookseller or a Dracula historian.
[again, the above was true in 2012!]
More interesting is that even when covers of the red cloth edition are available, the illustration on the book’s cover, a pasted down Count Dracula with a bat over his shoulder and wolf at his side, has never been made available large enough for study in great detail. Until now.
The image below (click on it or here for greater detail) shows an image of the Count, horse whip in hand, with a bat over his shoulder and a wolf at his feet.
Is the illustration (restored from my copy’s damaged paste-down [courtesy of the magic of PhotoShop]) accurate?
Certainly, Dracula assumes the forms of both bat and wolf in the novel. But it is the description of Dracula himself by which we can best judge the illustration.
From Harker’s journal dated May 5 (Chapter 2):
“His face was a strong-a very strong-aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples, but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.”
Of course, it is the more youthful Dracula Harker discovers in the vampire’s coffin, one “looking as if his youth had been half restored. For the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey” (Harker’s Journal, June 30 [Chapter 4]) that the illustrator depicts, but other than the “lofty domed forehead and hair growing scantily around the temples” could one say this is an accurate illustration of Stoker’s creation?
What is most curious about the 1902 edition’s cover illustration, however, is the horse whip in Dracula’s hand. Is this image that of the Count as mysterious coachman who picks up Harker at the Borgo Pass?
From Harker’s journal of May 3 (Chapter 1):
“[The horses] were driven by a tall man, with a long brown beard and a great black hat, which seemed to hide his face from us. I could only see the gleam of a pair of very bright eyes, which seemed red in the lamplight, as he turned to us.” Once aboard the coach, Harker records in his journal that “the driver cracked his whip and called to his horses.”
Further along into the Carpathians, he hears the howling of wolves. Harker sees his coach soon surrounded by the creatures. The caleche had stopped, and the coachman had disappeared into the woods. But upon Harker’s call, the coachman re-appears. And “as he swept his long arms, as though brushing aside some impalpable obstacle, the wolves fell back and back further still.”
The Second American Edition of Dracula is unique in its cover depiction of Dracula — not as the bat-like creature scaling the castle walls or the “distinguished and polished” Eastern-European nobleman as would be later described in the Hamilton Deane and John Balderston stageplay of the late 1920s — but as the coachman that serves as Charon to Harker’s Aeneas, ferrying the hero to an underworld as terrifying as Hades.
A strange choice for the cover? Perhaps oddly appropriate as the journey into Dracula’s world was being introduced to an even wider American audience who, like Harker, didn’t know what terrors awaited them.