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New England Book Auctions is reoffering a Putnam Lolita inscribed to Nabokov’s cousin, Sophie Nabokov (estimated at $1000/1500) in its auction on January 31st.



The details are here:

I wrote about its previous appearance at NEBA on 26-Oct-2016:

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.

This appears to be the real thing and not fraudulent (unlike some Nabokov inscribed books recently offered by NEBA).

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Swann Auction Galleries is offering at its May 18 auction a slightly unusual copy of a 1955 Olympia Press first printing of Lolita. Each volume of the two-volume paperback edition is enclosed in a kind of dust jacket that the catalog describes as “[publisher’s?] photographically reproduced dust jacket with printed spines and back panels (‘Printemps * Paris * Primavera’ lettering repeated)”.

Supposed dust jackets for Olympia Press Lolita being offered by Swann Auction Galleries on May 18.

Supposed dust jackets for Olympia Press Lolita being offered by Swann Auction Galleries on May 18.

I’ve never seen any kind of dust jacket on this edition of Lolita or even a mention of one. The catalog says, “…it isn’t hard to imagine the publisher producing these as a way to slip Lolita past the censors, due to the book’s already notorious reputation.” That assumes that the covering was produced after Graham Greene praised the book at the end of 1955 (more than three months after its publication) and after the brouhaha over the book began a month later.

I doubt that this supposed dust jacket came from the publisher. Why would the French publisher print a band in French and Italian for an English language book? Or is it a generic Olympia Press covering? Never seen it before on any Olympia Press output, in particular the Traveler’s Companion series. Also, it is not unusual for a bookseller to wrap a book in covering of its own design. Or maybe the owner of the book made it himself and wanted to protect his copy.

The volumes themselves are in near fine condition. The Swann sale is #2416; the lot is #311.

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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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This is the final installment of the final A-item of the drafts of the revised and updated bibliography. The “Complete” in the heading is obviously tentative. Lolitas in their original English and Russian versions gush from the presses of publishers in the English- and Russian-speaking worlds (and in the non-English speaking world as texts for the study of American literature).

The full Lolita / Лолита draft encompasses 83 editions in English and Russian. The most recent installment adds A28.74, a Russian edition from Azbuka that was the first to reinstate a paragraph missing from all previous Russian editions. On that note, I’ve also included some information about the errors and corrections in various English language editions.

Next, D-items — translations by others than Nabokov.

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I’ve posted the sixth version of the update to the draft pages of Lolita / Лолита. There are 72 English and Russian editions in this update, published from 1955 through 2006. Of interest are four editions published in Russia, two in English (A28.66 and A28.69), a quasi-finely-bound edition in Russian (A28.67), and a very expensive, finely-bound, limited edition in Russian (A28.72).

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I’ve posted the fifth version of the update to the draft pages of Lolita / Лолита. There are 59 English and Russian editions in this version (eventually there will be more than 80), published from 1955 through 2000. Of interest are English language editions published in China (A28.44 and A28.58) and Korea (A28.48), a large print edition (A28.47), and two editions of The Annotated Lolita with corrections (A28.40 and A28.43).

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Here’s a new update to the draft pages of Lolita / Лолита. So far there are 37 editions in English and Nabokov’s Russian translation, published from 1955 through 1991. Included this time are the first 15 editions of Nabokov’s Russian translation which were published in Russia (the first one by Izvestia, 1989) and two editions with corrections (Vintage, 1989, and The Annotated Lolita, Vintage, 1991).

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I’ve added a new update to the draft pages of Lolita / Лолита. Included are the first nineteen editions in English and Nabokov’s Russian translation, from 1955 through 1987. I’ve added the U.S. and British The Annotated Lolita (with Alfred Appel, Jr.’s supplementary material, corrections, and quotations from Nabokov), two Ardis Russian editions (reproduced from the 1967 Phaedra edition with its errors), and five book club editions.

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I’ve updated the new draft pages of Lolita / Лолита to include the first eight editions, from 1955 through 1969. I’ve added the first wrappers editions from Fawcett (US, 1959) and Corgi (Britain, 1961), the long run of paperback printings from Putnam’s/Berkley (US, 1966–1987 and possibly later), and the first edition of Nabokov’s Russian translation, from Phaedra (US, 1967).

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And so we reach the end of the A-items, for now, with Lolita / Лолита. There are dozens of editions and hundreds of printings in English and Nabokov’s own translation into Russian. Here I start out with only the first three editions, or A-items: The Paris Olympia Press edition of 1955, the American Putnam edition of 1958, and the British Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition of 1959. I will add more editions next week. Lolita is A28 in the 1986 bibliography.

The pdf of the draft pages is not acting sanely in Firefox and I am working on the problem. It is displaying properly in Safari and Chrome. I don’t know if it behaves in Internet Explorer and other browsers.

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