The Scarcity of Gothic Novels?

Posted by Franz Potter on May 27, 2009 in Dr Franz Potter, Guest Blog tagged with

I have to admit that for me one of the big draws of studying the Gothic novel is its scarcity. The fact that many of these novels were literally read to death and have completely disappeared is simply fascinating. I remember as a graduate student at The University of East Anglia, I would plan visits to the British Library for the unique opportunity of handling a rare novel that I was working on. Sitting in the Rare Book Room was something magnificent and after 20 or 30 minutes of waiting and preparing, I would be holding the novel in my hands…something that was almost sacred to me. There is certainly a thrill associated with opening a book that has been long forgotten…looking for marginalia and searching for clues. However, times are changing.

 Today I heard from a friend, a fellow Gothic enthusiast, who was searching through a book that I knew pretty well from my days in the BL. I had traveled down to London several times one winter to study the 1826 edition of Legends of Terror! and Tales of the Wonderful and the Wild and here is my friend sitting in his office studying the very same text. It turns out that this massive, and I would argue important, collection of Gothic chapbooks and tales is now partially digitalized (and I assume will soon be fully). Students and scholars alike can access this collection and other rare Gothic novels anywhere and at anytime on the web through Google Books. This is of course great news for scholars of the Gothic as we can finally read these forgotten tales of terror.

This turn of events has me thinking. You see it was the scarcity of Gothic novels that lead me to establish Zittaw Press when I left UEA. Back in the states Gothic novels are even more difficult to come by unless you live near a major research library, so I started the press with the intent to make the minor or marginalized Gothic novels available to students and scholars. However the availability of an increasing number of rare Gothic novels online has me wondering if there is really a need for scholarly editions of ‘minor’ Gothic novels? Is it really important that scholars have access to all ‘Gothic’ novels written between 1764 and 1830? Do the minor Gothic novels even warrent study?

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