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Two dealers are offering six allegedly signed/inscribed/lepidopterized Nabokovs on eBay. I’ve written about fraudulent copies inscribed for “Martin and Diana” before. See my postings of 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 27 April 2016. Also, one of the sellers has attached a supposed letter of provenance for the three paperbacks. That letter is as dubious as the sorry lots themselves.

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Just in case you missed the comments on my previous post, “Two Nabokov Items at Swann Auction”, here is what James pointed out about another upcoming auction:

Swann tend to get good prices but I agree that both estimates seem to be optimistic – especially the Lolita which is more like a retail price. There are a couple of signed Nabokov’s at Skinner’s of Boston on 17th.

And I responded:

Thanks for the heads up. I hadn’t noticed the Nabokov lots—four of them—at the Skinner auction house on 17 November. Two are signed (lot 222, A35.2, 1962 British Pale Fire in a fair dust jacket, and lot 224, A26.5, 1967 American Speak, Memory, dust jacket not shown) and two (lots 221 and 223) are multiple volume lots. All of the estimates are fair. Lot 221 includes A27.1, Стихотворения: 1929–1951 [Stikhotvoreniia: 1929–1951 / Poems: 1929–1951]. At the low end of the estimate ($400–600), it alone would be a good deal.


Two Nabokov items are coming up at Swann Auction Galleries in New York on 21 November, sale 2332. The descriptions are clear but too self-serving to give one a sense of how the items compare to other available copies. For example, the dust jacket on the Laughter in the Dark is in very poor condition. A copy with a decent dust jacket (good to very good) would go for $1000–3000. One without would go for $100–200. So the estimate of $500–700 here is high. The Lolita is also over-estimated. The two volumes show wear through their nicked edges and slightly turned corners. It is neither “uncommon” or “superlative”. A fair estimate would be $2500–3500. I don’t expect either copy to sell even at the low estimates.

To quote from the catalog:

Lot 204
NABOKOV, VLADIMIR. Laughter in the Dark. 8vo, original brown cloth, slight lean; dust jacket, scattered chipping with some loss to spine panel ends and top of front panel, cellotape repairs on verso, overall rubbing; housed in custom cloth drop-back case with leather lettering label to spine. Indianapolis and New York: Bobbs-Merrill, (1938)

Estimate $500 – 750

First American edition, presumed second state binding in the variant brown cloth, of Nabokov’s (here “Nabokoff”) own translation of his first book to be published in the United States. The work appeared first in London in 1936 as Camera Obscura. Nabokov objected to that translation to the extent that he prevented any reprint from appearing. Juliar A142. [That should be A14.2, variant c; brown cloth is the third variant, neither a state and nor the second.]

Lot 205
NABOKOV, VLADIMIR. Lolita. 2 volumes. Small 8vo, publisher’s green, white, and black printed wrappers, clean and bright with no soiling or staining; internally free from any markings, very uncommon in such fine condition; preserved in cloth slipcase with lettering label, and chemise. Paris: The Olympia Press, (1955)

Estimate $6,000 – 9,000

First edition, first issue of Nabokov’s masterpiece with unobscured printed price of 900 Francs on each volume. Lolita was not published in the U.S. and the U.K. until 1959. A superlative example. Juliar A28.1.1.


I have finally received the results of the New England Book Auction on 24 September that featured 20 lots of Nabokov books, magazines, and Nabokov-related material. Some highlights. Prices are in American dollars and do not include the 15% buyer’s premium:

  • A black-and-white bromoil gelatin silver print by Philippe Halsman of Nabokov seated in his office, from 1968. Est. $2000–3000, sold for $2400.
  • Lolita, Olympia Press, 1955 (A28.1, issue a), very good condition. Est. $2500–3500, sold for $2800.
  • Lolita, Putnam’s, 1958 (A28.2), eighth printing, in very poor dj, with VN inscription and butterfly to a cousin, Sophie Nabokov, dated 1-Mar-1959. Est. $800–1200, sold for $1100. This copy is now being offered by Wootton’s Books in Worthington, MA, for $6500.
  • Lolita, Phaedra, 1967 (A28.7, state b), Russian translation in pink cloth over boards, near fine. Est. $500–700, sold for $400. Another copy in a chipped dj sold for $375.
  • Nabokov’s Dozen, Doubleday, 1958 (A32.1), in poor dj, with VN inscription and butterfly to the children of a cousin, Mariina Ledkovsky. Est. $1500–2500, sold for $3000.
  • The anthology Peterburg v stikhotvoreniiakh russkikh poeitov, Berlin, 1923, with the first book appearance of VN’s poem “Peterburg” (B7.1). Est. $100–150, sold for $110.
  • Pnin, Doubleday, Doubleday, 1957 (A30.1, variant a), in very poor dj, with VN inscription to Sophie Nabokov, dated March 1957. Est. $1500–2500, sold for $1800.
  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, New Directions, 1941 (A21.1, issue a), in very good dj. Est. $100–150, sold for $1600.