Collecting Books

Finding copies of Carmilla

There’s a new book coming out called Carmilla. It retells the story of an award-winning web series, also called Carmilla. That web series itself is based on another book…are you confused yet?

Whichever adaptation or retelling you may have stumbled upon, the riveting tale of a young woman being stalked by a lesbian vampire was first published in the 1872 novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Prepare your fainting couches, because this Victorian novella is rife with gentle hand-squeezes and fast breathing:

Carmilla illustration from The Dark Blue by D. H. Friston, 1872

“Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.” Then she had thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling.”

Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla is a vampire novel that you probably have not read that has changed our modern world and how it views vampires. This story served as inspiration for myriad retellings and reimaginings in the form of chamber opera, ballet, stories, songs, television shows, and other famous vampire novels like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Even though Carmilla precedes Bram Stoker’s Dracula by more than 20 years, it is clear to see its influence on the more well-known novel. In fact, in Stoker’s deleted first chapter, the Englishman comes across the tomb of a vampire countess. Stoker’s description of Lucy is very similar to that of Carmilla, and even Van Helsing seems to be based on Le Fanu’s vampire expert Baron Vordenburg.

It is quite hard to find original copies of Carmilla, but there are some beautiful illustrated, annotated, and finely-bound editions of this ground-breaking novel available for the collector.

If you are just looking for a copy to read, the complete text of Carmilla and most of Le Fanu’s other works are available for free online, as well as having been reprinted many, many times.

Rare copies of Carmilla

Carmilla was first serialized in “The Dark Blue,” a London-based literary magazine published monthly from 1871 to 1873.

In 1872, Le Fanu published Carmilla in a collection of tales called In a Glass Darkly along with Green Tea, The Familiar, Mr. Justice Harbottle, and The Room in the Dragon Volant. While it is quite difficult to find a true first edition of In a Glass Darkly, there are many subsequent reprints and reading copies available.

In a Glass Darkly – 1884 – listed by Adrian Harrington Rare Books. While not a true first, this reprint is nearly just as scarce as the 1872 edition.

IN A GLASS DARKLY (Folio Society) by Sheridan Le Fanu, introduction by Patrick McGrath, illustrated by Finn Campbell-Notman – Listed on Biblio by Michael Pyron

Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories by J. Sheridan Le Fanu also features Carmilla. This one is interesting, published by Arkham House, 1945. This copy is listed by John W. Knott, Jr., Bookseller, ABAA/ILAB.

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