World Stamps

Frankenstein’s monster comes to life on Jersey Post souvenir sheet

May 3, 2021, 7 AM

By Denise McCarty

Jersey Post is issuing eight stamps June 18 retelling Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and is bringing the monster to life on a souvenir sheet.

According to Jersey Post, the souvenir sheet was produced with a 3D lenticular effect that “portrays the creature as he is brought to life. The innovative technology allows his eyes to open and close, with electricity flashing on and off around the laboratory.”

British novelist Mary Shelley’s most famous work was first published anonymously 200 years ago, on Jan. 1, 1818, with the title Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Shelley (1797-1851) was 20 at the time, 18 when she began writing it.

In its online biography of Shelley, the British Library summed up the novel: “A ghost-writing contest on a stormy June night in 1816 inspired Frankenstein, often called the first true work of science-fiction. Superficially a Gothic novel, and influenced by the experiments of Luigi Galvani, it was concerned with the destructive nature of power when allied to wealth. It was an instant wonder, and spawned a mythology all its own that endures to this day.”

Each stamp in Jersey’s Frankenstein set depicts a scene from the novel and also includes a quote.

The first stamp, a 50-penny denomination, pictures Victor Frankenstein studying a book in his laboratory. A skull is shown below the denomination. The quote, from chapter 4, is “I began the creation of a human being.”

The quote on the next stamp, 65p, is from the beginning of chapter 5, “I beheld the accomplishment of my toils.” The stamp pictures “the monster” he had created.

Also from the same chapter is the quote on the single £3 stamp in the souvenir sheet, “I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created.”

The chapter continues on the 76p stamp with the monster watching Victor while he sleeps and the quote “His eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.”

Although it is not the next stamp according to denomination, the £1.12 stamp is the next one in the telling of the story. The design depicts Victor and the monster standing together on the glacier Montanvert in the Swiss Alps. “Remember, that I am thy creature,” the monster said to Victor in chapter 10.

In chapter 11, represented by the moonlit scene in the forest on the 82p stamp, the monster is narrating instead of Victor, “I was a poor, helpless miserable, wretch.”

The monster also is narrating in chapter 16 when he observes the De Lacey family in their cottage, as shown on the 94p stamp. “My heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures,” he said.

The £1.38 stamp shows Victor creating a female companion for the monster. However, when he discovers the monster watching him, Victor destroys his second creation. In chapter 20, he tells the infuriated monster, “You are my creator, but I am your master; obey!”

In the 24th and final chapter, Victor dies on a ship in the Arctic. When the monster finds him, he asks, “Where can I find rest but in death?”

So-Design Consultants, based in Bristol, England, designed the stamps and souvenir sheet.

Rachel MacKenzie, philatelic marketing manager of Jersey Post, said of the designs, “Frankenstein is such a hugely influential novel that to this day, it is still studied in schools and universities all over the world. Our aim was to stay as true to the book as possible, depicting the creature as Shelley describes him, being eight foot tall with yellow eyes as well as yellow skin tightly covering his muscles and arteries and with lustrous, flowing black hair, black lips and prominent white teeth.”

Cartor Security Printing of La Loupe, France, printed the stamps in sheets of 10, and printed the souvenir sheet on lenticular, gummed paper.

The United States and at least three other countries have also depicted Frankenstein’s creation on stamps.

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Two stamps from the United States feature actor Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 film Frankenstein.

The first is a 32¢ stamp in the Classic Movie Monsters pane of 20 issued Sept. 30, 1997 (Scott 3170). The second was issued Feb. 25, 2003, in the American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes pane of 10. This 37¢ stamp (3772e) shows Hollywood makeup artist Jack Pierce completing the transformation of Karloff into the monster.

Like the United States, Great Britain has pictured the monster on two stamps. In conjunction with the 1997 Europa theme of “tales and legends” and the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s birth, Great Britain issued a 31-penny Frankenstein stamp (Scott 1755).

The 56p stamp in the 2008 issue commemorating classic Carry On and Hammer films (Scott 2584) depicts the poster from the first Hammer Film Productions’ movie filmed in color, The Curse of Frankenstein released in 1957. In this version, Christopher Lee portrays “The Creature,” and Peter Cushing is Victor Frankenstein.

Sierre Leone features another Frankenstein film, Son of Frankenstein from 1939, on the 3,000-leone souvenir sheet in its 1997 Classic Horror Movies set (Scott 2035). This was Karloff’s third and final portrayal of the monster.

The second was in 1935 in the Bride of Frankenstein. While the Sierre Leone set does include a stamp for this film (Scott 2034i), it depicts Elsa Lanchester, who portrayed Mary Shelley and the monster’s bride in a dual role, and not the monster itself.

At least one other stamp mentions Frankenstein by name. On Sept. 6, 2007, Switzerland issued a set of four stamps featuring Swiss settings that inspired British writers. The 85-centime denomination, which shows a black-and-white photograph of the alpine mountain Monc, is inscribed “Frankenstein” at the top with “Mary Shelley” and “1818” below it (Scott 1282).

For more information about the new Frankenstein issue from Jersey, visit the website or write to Jersey Philatelic Bureau, FreePost JE793, Jersey Post, Jersey, JE1 1AF, Channel Islands.