In the early part of the nineteenth century, Victor von Frankenstein initially masters the techniques used to reanimate the dead. He then mysteriously vanishes after a series of tragedies befalls his friends and family.
Years later, his notes, once believed destroyed in a fire, resurface in the hands of a young man claiming to have been his assistant. This man, Hansel Grüber, ever the callow fool, lacks the skills to use the notes himself. He schemes to make himself wealthy by publishing the document and selling it quietly and repeatedly to very rich and slightly mad individuals all over Europe. Since these people are dabbling in sciences that require extremely dubious ethics, they are unlikely to advertise their newly acquired manuscripts. This, he feels, will allow him to sell Victor's notes for a high price, as though the duplicates were the originals.
He is both right and wrong. His buyers are willing to pay his price and pay they do. Unknown to Hansel, the "hobbyist collectors" he is attempting to scam would pay any price for the information contained in the document.
Hansel publishes for several years. But eventually, word spreads of the remarkable document and less wealthy but equally desperate madmen attempt to acquire a copy.
It is during the third such attempt that Hansel is slain as he desperately tries to flee London with the last ten manuscripts.
Hansel's story doesn't end there however. His murderer took only one of the remaining manuscripts and Hansel's corpse.
Hansel is later reanimated in a botched experiment and forced to live out a brief and horribly twisted mockery of a life until both he and his "creator" are slain by terrified country folk. The remaining manuscripts were never recovered.
The generally wide distribution of Victor's notes allowed the reanimation technique to come into fairly wide use. This spawned a loosely knit cabal of reanimators. United mostly by a need to discuss their work and their fear of discovery, they exist in almost every hidden corner of the planet. The cabal also carefully polices its own ranks; large and highly intelligent assassins visit those who jeopardize the whole.