édition fictive

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Of the 126 editions of Nabokov translated into French, five display the old French publishing practice of “mention fictive” or “édition fictive”. This is when a publisher issues copies of a book with different and purposely misleading printing statements on their covers, spines, or title pages in order to give the potential book buyer the impression that the book is so popular that the publisher had to order additional impressions from the printer. (For instance, in 1934 Bernard Grasset issued Chambre obscure in at least five states, three of which display édition statements on their spines.) The giveaway, though, is the colophon at the end of every French book. If a publisher says a book has gone through multiple impressions or éditions but the printing dates embedded in the colophon are all the same, we have instances of mention fictive.

Besides Bernard Grasset’s 1934 Chambre obscure, mention fictive is also present in Gallimard’s 1939 and 1959 La méprise, Albin Michel’s 1951 La vraie vie de Sebastian Knight, and Gallimard’s 1958 Lolita (whose state a first trade printing of 23-Apr-1959 comprised édition one through at least seventy-seven.). See the French D item drafts for details.

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