Blood of the Vampire (Writer) Descends Upon DeLancey Place

Recently, we were graced with a visit from a descendant of Bram Stoker. The delightful Dacre and Jenne Stoker stopped by to examine our set of Bram’s manuscript notes for Dracula. (Bram was Dacre’s great uncle. I’m sure Mr. Stoker has heard more than his share of quips, bons mots, and bad jokes about blood and vampires in his lifetime, so I apologize to him for the title of this post, but I needed a little something to catch your attention.) The Stokers are conducting some genealogical research on their famous predecessor and they came to the Rosenbach to learn some more about the process by which he created history’s most captivating vampire story. One of the most gratifying parts of working with the rare, historic, beautiful, and curious things held by the Rosenbach is making them available to people for whom they resonate on a personal level. Scholars who’ve spent their entire lives devoted to a particular topic will still get excited when sitting face-to-face with a working draft of a poem, or a letter they’d never known about. Readers who have ventured through Ulysses countless times will grow quiet when they see the opening words of the novel in Joyce’s own tiny, lopsided hand: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead…” Adults who grew up reading Maurice Sendak’s books light up when they see his original, vibrant watercolors. And the descendants of a legendary writer, hoping to learn a bit about who he was and how he wrote, have their own personal response to looking over his unceremonious, sometimes illegible, working notes for one of the world’s most widely-read and fanatically-loved novels. Dr. Rosenbach cherished his books in much the same way our visitors do and I’m sure he’d be pleased to know people still come to see and read and touch and get excited about great books.

It wasn’t all communing with ancient spirits and gasping in wonder when the Stokers visited, though. They explained something about the notes I’d never put together. They’re filled with calendars
and timetables and all kinds of time-related data Stoker collected to make sure he had all of his details straight. If I was feeling really literary-like I might consider his focus on time as a way of framing his unbelievable story of a kind of supernatural being — the ageless vampire — in the most true-to-life, seemingly verifiable setting possible as a way of making the fantasy that much more believable and disturbing. Dacre Stoker, however, reminded me that Bram managed Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theater for almost thirty years. The company toured a great deal so Stoker’s job demanded that he focus on punctuality, time, dates, and all kinds of little details relating to travel. In that way, when he plotted out the dates or tracked train times, he was just doing something that came naturally from his everyday work life. Thanks for helping me keep my eye on the real historical evidence, Mr. Stoker! We hope to see you again.

And if you, dear reader, want to see some of the Rosenbach’s treasures firsthand, get in touch and make an appointment.

If you’re interested in the Stoker notes for Dracula and can’t pay us a visit, check out the catalog for our 1997 exhibition celebrating the Dracula centennial. We would love your patronage, of course, but check your library — you’d be surprised how many libraries have a copy.

If that’s not enough for you, just wait until Fall when McFarland is scheduled to publish a facsimile edition of the notes edited by the esteemed Dracula scholar, Baroness of the House of Dracula, and Daughter of Aref, Elizabeth Miller, and publisher and vampire-fiction enthusiast (to put it mildly) Robert Eighteen-Bisang. (If everything works out with the kind of precision Stoker would have brought to the job, it should arrive in time for our annual Dracula Parade.) Dracula aficionados the world over should be, um, sharpening their fangs in anticipation of this book.

Bram Stoker (1847-1912). Dracula : notes and outline, [ca. 1890‑ca. 1896]. EL3 f. S874d MS, p. 36b [detail].
Fang illustration borrowed from Nightshade’s Pain-in-the-Neck Vampire Page.