Mary Shelley, book cover

To mark the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein's publication, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have published a biography of its author, Mary Shelley.

Aimed at a teen audience, Catherine Reef's riveting biography reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and chronicles one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The brief originally suggested including a portrait of Mary Shelley as the main image but I there was a stronger alternative to convey the story.

I hit on the idea of a human heart, or “organ of the monster” to represent several symbolic connections to Mary Shelly’s story:

  • The organ of the monster (with obvious stitch marks)
  • Percy Shelly's heart which was taken from his funeral pyre and buried with Mary Shelley
  • Love and romance themes in the story
  • The story's atheist themes (a corrupt version of the Christian 'Sacred Heart' icon)
 The Cover was to be  gothic looking , as well as  “moody and romantic and maybe a little creepy”.

The Cover was to be gothic looking, as well as “moody and romantic and maybe a little creepy”.

 Sketches exploring layout options of the lettering, heart and compositional elements

Sketches exploring layout options of the lettering, heart and compositional elements

 The refined sketch. 

The refined sketch. 

 Stylised, black and white heart sketch with stitches.

Stylised, black and white heart sketch with stitches.

 The final cover with extra colours applied.

The final cover with extra colours applied.