Reviews

Reviews

Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula (2008)

Bram Stoker’s initial notes and outlines for his landmark horror novel Dracula were auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in 1913 and eventually made their way to the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, where they are housed today. Until now, few of the 124 pages have been transcribed or analyzed. This comprehensive work reproduces the handwritten notes both in facsimile and in annotated transcription. It also includes Stoker’s typewritten research notes and thoroughly analyzes all of the materials, which range from Stoker’s thoughts on the novel’s characters and settings to a nine-page calendar of events that includes most of the now-familiar story. The coauthors draw on their extensive knowledge of Dracula and vampires to guide readers through the construction of the novel, and the changes that were made to its structure, plot, setting and characters. Appendices provide insight into Stoker’s personal life, his other works and his early literary influences.

Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition 

Transcribed and annotated by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller 
Jefferson NC and London: McFarland, 2008 
342 pages; library binding 
ISBN: 978-0-7864-3410

Praise for Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula

AWARDS

#1 in “My Top Ten Books of 2008”Famous Monsters of Filmland

Note: Topping Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and William Peter Blatty.  

Lord Ruthven Award for 2008 
(International Association of the Fantastic in the Arts)    

REVIEWS

C. Dean Andersson, writer (Texas, USA) / amazon.com (Oct 13, 2008) 
*****Inspiring! 
Reading through this book brought back to me the wonder and feelings of mysterious otherness that I felt the first time I read Stoker’s novel as a child. It is so fascinating to see his creative processes at work, the way the novel developed from his first notes, etc. There is a familiarity to the process, of course. Any writer should recognize similar processes in their own work as it develops from an idea to a finished book. The authors have done a wonderful and invaluable service to scholars and fans of Dracula! Like Stoker’s novel itself, this is a book to read more than once. I read Stoker’s novel again when I finished this book, and then reread the notes again. Best of all, for me, it has inspired me to work further on my own creations involving Dracula, begun in the novel, Crimson Kisses, published in 1982, and revisited in I Am Dracula in 1993. So, thank you, Robert and Elizabeth, for this stupendous achievement! Anyone who has ever been touched by the mystery of Dracula‘s power will read and treasure this book, throughout the nights of time!

Margaret L. Carter, author of The Vampire in Literature / 
News from the Crypt, No. 37 
Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula is edited by Elizabeth Miller and Robert Eighteen-Bisang. Thanks to these two distinguished Canadian scholars, Bram Stoker’s outline and notes for Dracula are at last made available to the public. This book comprises a facsimile reproduction of the handwritten and typed notes, page by page, with a transcription on each opposite page. The volume includes very detailed footnotes showing how the outline developed into the finished novel and how Dracula as published differs from Stoker’s original conception. There are also an extensive bibliography and a detailed index. Appendices include a biographical sketch of Stoker’s life, the 1888 Encyclopedia Britannica “Vampire” entry, major fictional works that might have influenced Dracula, a list of relevant books owned by Stoker, a summary of incidents in the novel with features mentioned in the Notes highlighted, and a chronology of the potential novel (as outlined in the Notes) that the author ultimately did not write.

The publication of this volume should lay to rest once and for all the notion of Stoker as a “hack” who carelessly dashed off the book that ensured his fame. Not only did he spend almost seven years plotting and writing the book, he meticulously outlined and painstakingly researched every element that went into it. The Notes also confirm that Count Dracula was not literally “based” on Vlad the Impaler, since the main structure of the story was in place before Stoker replaced the vampire’s original name, “Count Wampyr,” with “Dracula.” For writers in particular, this book offers a fascinating in-depth view of the construction of a classic work of fiction. The revision process eliminated, combined, and renamed numerous characters and deleted or rearranged large chunks of plot to arrive at Dracula as we have it. The principle of an author’s finding the right place to start is admirably demonstrated, as the originally conceived novel began several chapters before its present opening with Jonathan Harker’s transition “from the West into the East.”

All Dracula specialists, of course, must have this book. Vampire enthusiasts in general will want to read it if at all possible. If you’re a student or faculty member at a college or university, urge your institution’s library to purchase this major contribution to DRACULA scholarship.

Dacre Stoker (great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker)
amazon.com  Oct 24, 2008
***** Bram’s Dracula Notes have arisen
The authors, Miller and Eighteen-Bisang, have done a wonderful job in demystifying these mostly handwritten notes that my great-grand uncle Bram Stoker created as his notes for the book Dracula. I had access to the notes myself for research, but the form that Elizabeth and Robert have put them in, as well as the comments and perspective they have added, make this a must-have for anyone interested in Dracula.

Robert Devereaux, author of Deadweight (Colorado, USA) 
amazon.com (Sept 9, 2008) 
*****Magnificent, an obvious labor of love…  
Robert Eighteen-Bisang has spent an extraordinary life devoted to vampire lore and especially to Dracula.  Now, he and Elizabeth Miller, in a beautifully produced volume, annotate and transcribe Bram Stoker’s notes for Dracula. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in this seminal work of fiction and in how novels are put together.

Bravo!

Robert Eldridge / Website of L. W. Currey 
The authors were given access, at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, to the notes kept by Stoker in preparation for writing DRACULA: thoughts about his characters, research on vampires, werewolves, and other subjects touched on in the novel, lists of dialect vocabulary used in Whitby, Yorkshire (where Dracula’s ship was beached) and a calendar of events in the story. Miller and Eighteen-Bisang have made transcriptions as well as facsimile reproductions of all these materials; and have added essays, appendices and bibliographical notes that help guide the reader through this primary source material, which is by no means always self-explanatory. Stoker’s notes are not dated, and they refer to certain parts of the completed novel but not to others, thus leaving many questions unanswered. But they do lead to one inescapable and interesting conclusion: Stoker did not dash DRACULA off as some sort of pulp entertainment, shooting from the hip as legions of later authors of vampire fiction would do. There was some tradition for the vampire tale in the 1890s, but not much: there was by no means the literary compost pit that this genre has had access to (since the 1930s). Stoker worked on the book for at least six years and, while he did not always work methodically, he did work hard and conscientiously. While the resulting novel was received enthusiastically in the market place, its critical reception has not generally mirrored the seriousness of its inception. All that has been changing in the late-twentieth century with the gradual elevation of popular culture over high culture, and this present work of scholarship, issued by a scholarly publisher, marks a fitting stage in that trend. DRACULA is one of the three horror novels of the nineteenth century (along with FRANKENSTEIN and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE) to since achieve mythic status.

Interestingly, all three texts were characterized by mysterious births. The debate over the respective contributions of Percy and Mary Shelley to the writing of FRANKENSTEIN is still a lively one (invigorated with the recent publication of a new edition of FRANKENSTEIN designed to strip away Percy’s edits). Stevenson wrote DR. JEKYLL in a white heat after a nightmare, but then destroyed the first draft after reading it to his wife and hearing her say that it was too horrible. Now we have evidence that DRACULA was written in stages, not all of which are by any means clear. The gap in quality between DRACULA and his other works, while by no means as large as the gap between FRANKENSTEIN and Mary Shelley’s other work, remains significant and not entirely explained.

Joel H. Emerson, author of The Un-Dead: The DRACULA novel, rewritten to include stoker’s characters and events
amazon.com (Sept 7, 2008)
***** A “must-read” for Dracula fans!
In our modern era of DVD and Blu-ray movies, we are often treated to a special features section after the film, in which one can find interviews where the director describes his thought process and journey of creation, as well as various alternate and deleted scenes. What a DVD’s special features section does for a great movie, “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula” does for Stoker’s literary masterpiece. During the many years it took for Bram Stoker to write “Dracula,” the author accumulated over a hundred pages of notes. In those pages can be found early character concepts and plot threads, many of which never made it into the published novel. Until recently, one had to travel to the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia to see those notes, and then had to attempt to decipher Stoker’s notoriously sloppy handwriting. But now, thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Miller and Robert Eighteen-Bisang, anyone can read through a printed (and thus legible!) transcript of the Notes, as well as gain further insight into Stoker’s journey of creation through the transcribers’ annotations and commentaries. Being an author myself, and having personally studied Stoker’s original notes at the Rosenbach, I can say from experience that anyone who wishes to enjoy “Dracula” beyond a superficial level should seriously consider picking up a copy of “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula.”

 Peter Golz (“Vampirologist, Victoria BC, Canada) / amazon.ca (Oct 20, 2008)
 *****A Must for Scholars and Fans 
Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller have accomplished the almost impossible – to present a new milestone in Stoker scholarship which will be indispensible reading for anybody seriously interested in the world’s most important horror novel. The beautifully presented volume was obviously a labour of love.

First, we are presented with facsimile reproductions of Bram Stoker’s original notes which, until now, were only available at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. The handwritten notes have been meticulously transcribed, no small feat if you take a look at Stoker’s original handwriting. Stoker’s typed research notes are also included.

But what makes this book a must for Dracula fans and scholars are the extensive, insightful annotations. They present many new insights and settle a number of long debates surrounding the novel, and make for a fascinating read. To complement the notes and annotations, there are also various appendices, ranging from the construction of the novel, the mysterious “Dracula’s Guest”, the novel’s characters, an 1888 Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the term ‘vampire’, to literary influences, and more. A wonderfully stimulating read, fascinating, enlightening, and of course, always frightening.

Nenonen, Michael
The Republic of East Vancouver (Aug 25, 2009)
I’m impressed by the amount of work required to transcribe and annotate these notes, as well as by the thoughtfulness of the concluding analysis. I’m particularly intrigued by the use of Levi-Strauss’s structuralism as an analytic tool, and by the suggestion that Dracula’s foremost theme is the development of a heightened state of moral consciousness.

Wilson, David Niall

Oct 1, 2008

A short while ago, a package arrived at my door. I get a lot of books, some that I buy, some that I get the privilege of seeing ahead of time and reviewing, some that people want me to consider for awards. As much as I love books, the thrill of new books entering the to be read pile can lose it’s shine over time.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure at receiving my friend and long time associate Robert Eighteen-Bisang’s first published book, “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition,” which he wrote with Elizabeth Miller.

For starters, the book is a thing of beauty. It is bound in maroon boards with gold gilt lettering – very elegant. There is no dust-jacket since it’s a reference book, but that would just detract, I think. It’s a serious book, and I’m a serious lover of all things Dracula.

As a writer, this is a real treasure. Inside these covers are Bram Stokers initial hand-written notes planning out the novel Dracula in beautifully reproduced facsimile images. Then, along with those notes the authors have transcribed the hand-written body of the work and added annotations, analysis, and cross-references. This book has an amazing variety of material. There are notes on the characters and settings, seemingly unrelated bits of research, a calendar of events (sort of a time-line of the novel) – all organized in a fashion that makes exquisite sense of the material.

Both authors are experts in vampire lore. Rob has one of (if not by now THE) most extensive collection of vampire fiction in the world – and definitely knows more about Dracula, the man and the novel, than anyone I’ve met in a lifetime of loving vampires and vampire fiction. He owns the first Colonial Edition of Dracula to be found (there are others now) because I found it for him on eBay. He has a presentation copy of the first edition. My point is – the man knows what he’s doing.

This book is a scholarly, well-organized and aesthetically pleasing marvel of a reference. If you love Dracula, or are just interested in the process by which one of the greatest modern horror classics came into being – this book is a must-read.

Be forewarned, it’s not cheap. It’s a reference, and it was meant for reference libraries. Dracula – however – is a work of vast influence. There are a lot of people interested in this book, the author, and the Count. If you are one such, you need to read this.

Richard Lupoff 
SF Site
Talk about expectation versus experience! I will confess that I thought this book was going to be a total snoozer. A facsimile of a hundred or so pages of dubiously legible notes by a long-dead author, for a novel that he wrote well over a century ago. The author was Abraham “Bram” Stoker (1847–1912) and the novel was Dracula (1897).

Was I ever wrong!

First of all, I’ve tried to decipher Stoker’s handwriting on the facsimile pages of this book, and it is indeed a daunting chore. Fortunately, the editors have painstakingly worked over the manuscript pages and provided a clear transcript, including alternate interpretations of those words upon which scholars disagree. Beyond this, they furnish an exegesis of every one of Stoker’s notes. Here is a typical example:

Stoker:
Kate Reed to Lucy Westenra telling of Harker’s visit to the school to see Mina Murray & of Mina’s confidence & her story — with postscript telling how she thought after writing it would be well to ask Mina’s permission before telling her story — she knows it all over long ago & that she goes to stay with her on summer holiday at Whitby

Eighteen-Bisang and Miller:
Kate Reed is probably the unnamed messenger Lucy alludes to when she says, “Someone has evidently been telling tales (5:56). McNally and Florescu believe that “Mrs. Westenra seems to have taken [Kate Reed’s] place… in the novel (26). Frayling renders “over” as “dead.” However, either wording supports his conclusion that Kate Reed had “some ‘story’ which is of interest to Mina” and the fact “that ‘it is all dead long ago’ ” allows them “to remain friends.” He then wonders, “Could it possibly have been a romance with Jonathan?”

As you can see, there is an ongoing “conversation” among such Stoker/Dracula scholars as Raymond McNally, Radu Florescu, Christopher Frayling, and the current commentators. It is fascinating to observe their discussions at the same time that one follows the development of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s mind and in his notes. There is not a single, coherent Stoker notebook, however. The author was a busy man with a “day job” as manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, as well as having a home and family life. He made notes on any scrap of paper that was handy, including the backs of Lyceum Theatre letterhead. He went back over his notes repeatedly, changing references, crossing out lines and adding others.

The location of Count Dracula’s home was apparently Germany in Stoker’s earliest version of his plan. He moved the infamous castle to Styria, a province of Hungary, and thence to Transylvania, providing that otherwise little known region with worldwide fame. The great anti-hero himself was originally described only as a dead old man, brought back to life. Then as Count (blank), then Wampyr, and finally Dracula.

Characters and scenes appear and transform and disappear from the book as it continues to evolve. There are werewolves in the story, then there are no werewolves. There is a fabulous dinner party for thirteen bizarre storytellers including Dracula himself. The incident mimics the Biblical Last Supper, with Dracula playing the role of the Anti-Christ. The scene does not appear in the novel, although it was restored in at least one filmed version, long after Stoker’s death. Was it ever drafted and discarded, or did Stoker decide to omit it before he wrote the book?

On and on the tale evolves, with Stoker’s handwritten notes and later his typewritten pages carrying us ever closer to the completion of what has to be recognized as the greatest horror novel ever written. Stoker was a fairly prolific author. He published a dozen novels, most of them of a fantastic nature, as well as dozens of short stories and several works of nonfiction. But of course Dracula was his masterpiece. It is immortal.

The editors of the present volume found the treasure of Stoker’s notes in the suggestively named Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. From there they traced the odyssey of the notes back to their sale by Stoker’s widow, Florence, in 1913, for two pounds two shillings. Roughly twelve dollars. Today, they are priceless.

This excellent book also contains period photographs (including one of the Lyceum Theatre) and documents, essays and appendices that make endless fascinating reading. The book is a treasure and a joy.

One word of warning. You may “know” Dracula through the endless adaptations of the novel that have appeared over the years since it first publication. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of stage plays, motion pictures, radio and televisions series, comic books and other versions of the story. My little grandson, not yet four years of age, is thoroughly familiar with the cuddly Count Von Count, a recurring character on Sesame Street. My own favorites are the silent Nosferatu (1922), dir. F. W. Murnau, with Max Schreck, Dracula (1931), dir. Tod Browning, with Bela Lugosi, and The Horror of Dracula (1958), dir. Terence Fisher, with Christopher Lee. But there are plenty of others to choose from. I imagine you could watch a Dracula motion picture every night for years on end, before moving on to TV series like Dark Shadows or Angel.

And of course, in addition to the direct adaptations of Dracula there are the endless run of more or less Dracula-esque vampire novels, from Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot (1975) to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976) to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005). Stoker was not the first author to write a vampire novel, but Dracula set the standard for the genre, and no other vampire novel — or movie or comic book or role-playing game — can ever or will ever surpass it as the definitive work in the field.

But — and here’s the big but — you don’t really know Dracula unless you’ve read Stoker’s novel. And it is a gripping, thrilling, even frightening novel still. It remains in print in languages around the world in editions ranging from inexpensive paperbacks to deluxe collector-oriented volumes beautifully printed on fine vellum and bound in luxuriant gold-stamped covers. You can get it as audio if that’s your preference, or download it free from several internet sites. You’re wasting your time if you even try to read Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula without first reading the novel itself. But believe me, if you have read and loved this book, you will enjoy the Notes endlessly and you will understand and appreciate Stoker’s great achievement even more.

Wilson, David Niall Oct 1, 2008
A short while ago, a package arrived at my door. I get a lot of books, some that I buy, some that I get the privilege of seeing ahead of time and reviewing, some that people want me to consider for awards. As much as I love books, the thrill of new books entering the to be read pile can lose it’s shine over time.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure at receiving my friend and long time associate Robert Eighteen-Bisang’s first published book, “Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula: A Facsimile Edition,” which he wrote with Elizabeth Miller.

For starters, the book is a thing of beauty. It is bound in maroon boards with gold gilt lettering – very elegant. There is no dust-jacket since it’s a reference book, but that would just detract, I think. It’s a serious book, and I’m a serious lover of all things Dracula.

As a writer, this is a real treasure. Inside these covers are Bram Stokers initial hand-written notes planning out the novel Dracula in beautifully reproduced facsimile images. Then, along with those notes the authors have transcribed the hand-written body of the work and added annotations, analysis, and cross-references. This book has an amazing variety of material. There are notes on the characters and settings, seemingly unrelated bits of research, a calendar of events (sort of a time-line of the novel) – all organized in a fashion that makes exquisite sense of the material.

Both authors are experts in vampire lore. Rob has one of (if not by now THE) most extensive collection of vampire fiction in the world – and definitely knows more about Dracula, the man and the novel, than anyone I’ve met in a lifetime of loving vampires and vampire fiction. He owns the first Colonial Edition of Dracula to be found (there are others now) because I found it for him on eBay. He has a presentation copy of the first edition. My point is – the man knows what he’s doing.

This book is a scholarly, well-organized and aesthetically pleasing marvel of a reference. If you love Dracula, or are just interested in the process by which one of the greatest modern horror classics came into being – this book is a must-read.

Be forewarned, it’s not cheap. It’s a reference, and it was meant for reference libraries. Dracula – however – is a work of vast influence. There are a lot of people interested in this book, the author, and the Count. If you are one such, you need to read this.

Miscellaneous comments

“A brilliant, jaw-dropping piece of scholarship.” (David J. Skal)

“The highlight of the year. A superbly annotated and scholarly masterpiece.” (Richard Dalby)

 “Good work; wonderful book! You can be very proud of it.” (Lloyd Currey)

“We are pleased to recommend this authoritative work.” (Jeanne Youngson)

“A masterpiece.” (Ingrid Pitt)

“What a fabulous book! I would have been proud to have put my name to that.” (Clive Leatherdale)