Allison Janney as Margaret Scully reading Lolita in Masters of Sex.

Allison Janney as Margaret Scully reading Lolita in Masters of Sex.

It is St. Louis, 1958. A woman, middle-aged, married, upper-middle class, is in bed, reading. Her husband walks in. She puts the book aside. The book is Lolita. This is a shot from the first episode, “Parallax”, of the new, second, season of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, 25:48 in.

The shot is slightly odd, though. It is clear that the Lolita is a thick, single, hardbound volume in the green Olympia Press dust jacket. Only one Lolita matches that description: The single-volume hardcover issued by Steimatzky in Israel most probably in 1959 (A28.1, Israeli printing, variant a). So, why is the woman, Allison Janney as Margaret Scully, a university provost’s wife in 1958, reading a foreign edition of a book that was released in the U.S. by Putnam on 15 September 1958? How did she get a hold of it a year before it was issued? Did someone send it to her from Israel? Had she recently visited Israel? Is there a backstory here?

Probably not. The only backstory that makes sense is one that the show’s prop master would tell us. Take a close look at the still from the episode. The jacket is in remarkably good shape. Makes sense for 1958 or 1959. But not for today, 55 years later, for a prop master to have found a dj in such fine condition. Also, that dj has some small, illegible printing in the lower left-hand corner of its back cover. A real Steimatzky dj is blank on its back. So it’s not a real Steimatzky dj.

Another detail. The top of the hardcover binding peeking out from the top of the dj reveals a volume quarter-bound in black cloth and white paper. Ah, that’s the Putnam edition. So, what we have is a marriage of an almost Steimatzky dj with a Putnam hardbound binding. The prop master seems to have scrambled to come up with the prop that the script called for. He found a Putnam copy, but without the dj. He needed a dj so that the camera could pick up the title easily. (There is no title or other writing on the Putnam binding.) Somewhere he found a copy or photo of one of the Olympia Press issues, covers and spine, and had a facsimile dj made to fit the slightly larger Putnam binding. But I still can’t figure out what that writing is on the bottom-left of the back cover.

So much for nitpicking popular period-piece television.

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I’m away from my desk and won’t be posting any bibliographic updates for several weeks. As a matter of fact I’m in St. Petersburg right now. On Friday my wife and I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Tatiana Ponomareva, the director of the Nabokov Museum here in the Nabokov family’s house, and Daniel Sergeyev, the program director. I’ll report on my visit later once my jet-lagged brain becomes defogged.

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I’ve hacked my way through the thickets of Portuguese translations in Brazil, Portugal, and even Spain, netted what I could of the Lolitas, and have ordered and pinned them to my bibliographic board for presentation. Just step this way and take a peek.

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Here are parts one and two of the draft pages for translations in Portuguese. They include translations of twelve works from A8 through A26, that is, Машенька / Mary to Speak, Memory / Другие берега, in 34 editions published in Portugal and Brazil.

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Here is part one of the draft pages for translations in Portuguese. It includes translations of five works from A8 through A13, that is, Машенька / Mary to Подвиг / Glory, in 11 editions published in Portugal and Brazil.

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Here are the draft pages for translations in Galician. There is only one edition, that of Lolita. Galician is a Romance language closely related to Portuguese; Galicia is in northwest Spain.

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Here now are all three parts of the draft pages for translations in Polish, completing the drafts for that language. They include 63 editions of 26 works from A8, Машенька / Mary, through A68, The Original of Laura.

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Here are parts one and two of the draft pages for translations in Polish. They further include translations of five works from A21 through A28, that is, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight to Lolita.

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Here is part one of the draft pages for translations in Polish. It includes translations of nine works from A8 through A17, that is, Машенька / Mary to Дар / The Gift.

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The latest draft pages are for translations in Slovenian, or Slovene. There are eight editions covering translations of seven A-items. Four of the translations are from the English, three are from the Russian. One edition, the 1979 Lolita, was issued when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia. In 1991, Slovenia split from Yugoslavia and became an independent country.

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