Auction of forgotten vampire book which inspired Dracula and Frankenstein revealed on Trading History


Wednesday 23 November 2016

A rare copy of The Vampyre, the first English vampire story said to have inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula AND Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, has emerged on Trading History, the brand new series Wednesday 30 November at 7pm on Yesterday.

The short novella was penned in 1816 by little known English physician John Polidori, and was the first time a vampire was portrayed as a gentleman aristocrat rather than a ghoulish mythical creature - and its story is among those told in new show.

Trading History investigates history through the prism of the auction house - taking viewers on an investigative and genealogical journey, with each of the six episodes uncovering fascinating stories from auction houses across the UK.

Polidori wrote The Vampyre during a stay at a haunted villa near Lake Geneva with his employer, the poet Lord Byron and his friends Percy and Mary Shelley. After telling one another ghost stories one night, Polidori challenged the group to write one. Polidori then produced The Vampyre - a short story about a blood-sucking dead nobleman called Lord Ruthven - while Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein.  

Polidori's novella was published in 1819 under no name as he wasn't an established author. Mary Shelley published Frankenstein a year earlier.

Bram Stoker produced Count Dracula, an aristocratic vampire from Transylvania, in 1897 having been inspired by Polidori's work.

Very few of copies of The Vampyre exist today but one has now sold at auction for £2,300. The inside page of the book contains the name 'Henry Lloyd Morgan' and the date 1821 written in pencil. This appears to be the first owner of the book.

Its last owner was Alison Stephens, 53, whose late grandmother bought it at a church jumble sale many years ago. Mrs Stephens, from Hertfordshire, inherited it in the 1970s but kept it in the same cardboard box she received it in.

Mrs Stephens said,

I owned the book from as far back as the seventies. My grandmother was obsessed with church bizarres and she more than likely picked it up from one. I ended up with it because nobody else in the family was really interested in it.

I kept it in this cardboard box and it got to the stage where I was looking to shift some things. I had no idea the book was valuable.

Adrian Wills, general manager for Yesterday, said,

Dracula is one of the most enduring fictional figures, having been brought to life by scores of great character actors including Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee and Gary Oldman. Yesterday viewers will love the history behind its creation which Trading History retells.

Michael Kousah, a book consultant for Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, Essex, which sold the book, added,

Apparently it was Polidori's suggestion for the small group of people to write a ghost story that night by Lake Geneva. Polidori wrote The Vampyre and Mary Shelley went away and came up with Frankenstein. It was an incredible evening for horror fiction.

Kousah continues, "The vampire story wasn't new. It was a folklore that had never been printed before. Always the vampire was portrayed as a member of the lower classes. The reason Polidori captured the imagination was it was the first time a vampire had been portrayed as a charming aristocrat." 

"It was the upper levels of society who could afford books at that time and it affected them and had an impact on them. When it was first published the publishers decided to put Lord Byron's name to it because they wanted to sell lots of copies. But it soon came out that he didn't write it and later editions were printed with no name on."

"In Victorian times many people bound their books in leather but this copy was in its original drab and plain publishing wrapper. It may be that it was left unsold in a bookshop and was destined for the bin. The vendor didn't know how long it had been in the family, only that she had inherited it."

Mrs Stephens decided to dig out the historic book to sell it following a recent successful auction of a Conan Doyle manuscript by the same auctioneers.

Mr Kousah added,

We gave it a pre-sale estimate of £200 to £400 and the vendor nearly collapsed when I told her how much it went for.

Polidori died two years after the book was published by taking cyanide after suffering from depression.

For pics, video and more press info:

Katie Sheldrake, Publicist

About Trading History

Treasures reveal the history of the world, that's what makes them special and desirable. They are a tangible piece of the past that can be touched, held and owned.

How much would you pay to own Napoleon's hat? Or the Rolex watch that belonged to the 77th man through the tunnel in The Great Escape? Or the earliest aerial photographs of London? Or even a silver bell that belonged to Queen Elizabeth II as a child? Perhaps you'd like to own a 1912 photo of the iceberg that sank the Titanic? What about items that previously belonged to members of the British Secret Service? Or Napoleon's tooth? Or even a chair designed by Pharrell Williams? Or John Lennon's guitar?

These treasures sell at extremely high prices, anything from thousands to millions of pounds. Wealthy private collectors battle to outbid each other, and often they will outbid museums and public archives.

This all new series uncovers intriguing family history through the prism of auction house artifacts, and foes on an investigative and genealogical journey. The back story of each object for sale is revealed from three perspectives; the sellers, the buyers and the auctioneers.

The series examines famous figures from history - Churchill, Hitler, Napoleon, the Suffragettes, our royal monarchs and great writers of the 20th century - as their treasures have emerged at auction houses selling for millions after being hidden away from decades. For many items, this will be a 'last chance to see' before they disappear into private collections.

The opening episode features the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck, baby photos of Queen Elizabeth II, the death of an Irish aristocrat, antique eyewear, a WWI tank mask and clothing that once belonged to Queen Victoria.

About Yesterday

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Showcasing UK premiere series such as Raiders of the Lost Past, Forbidden History, and UFO Declassified, Yesterday provides fascinating factual stories. The channel also features dynamic nature and science programming including David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities and Why Planes Crash, and programmes which challenge expectations including Secrets of the Bible. Ancient history is also featured in series including Medieval Dead, plus modern conflict in shows such as Black Ops.

About UKTV

UKTV is the biggest multichannel broadcaster in the UK.

The award-winning independent has eleven imaginative brands - UKTV Play, Dave, W, Gold, Alibi, Yesterday, Drama, Really, Home, Eden and Good Food. These include the two most popular non-PSB channels in the UK and account for 9.31% of the British commercial TV market. The company's most recent financial results showed record-breaking year-end revenue of £319m and EBITDA of £82m. It invested £148m in programming and related launches last year, and is becoming an increasingly significant investor in UK creativity.

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