The Return of Laura

Laura is back.

The 138 index cards comprising the manuscript of Nabokov’s final uncompleted novel, The Original of Laura, are back on the market. Forum Auctions, a new London auction house, is offering the manuscript at its inaugural sale on 13 July with an estimate of £60,000 to £80,000 (about $78,000 to $103,000, depending on which day you check the falling pound sterling).

Forum’s auction page is here.

The Nabokov manuscript has a depressing sales history. It was first offered by Christie’s New York, on consignment from Dmitri Nabokov, amid much hoopla and speculation in December 2009 as the book was being published by Knopf. It then had an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000. But it was bid up to only $280,000 and failed to reach its reserve.

Less than a year later in November 2010, Christie’s London offered the index cards with an estimate now lowered to £100,000 to £150,000. They did sell this time for £78,050 (about $100,000 at that time), premium included.

Soon after, the manuscript showed up in the catalog of Philobiblon, a Rome book dealer, for €180,000 (somewhere around $150,000 at that time). Philobiblon is in partnership with Forum.

To see my blog postings about the selling of the Laura manuscript, search under “Laura”, “auctions”, and “manuscripts”.

With the latest estimate at about one-fifth of the original in 2009, maybe Laura will now find a home in an institution or on the shelf of a collector. But I think not. In five and a half years, Philobiblon couldn’t move Laura. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the cachet of Lolita or even Pnin. She occupies almost no space in the Nabokov cultural imagination.


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