Vladimir Nabokov rare books and memorabilia
Vladimir Nabokov rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to Russian writer Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977).
Nabokov wrote novels, poetry and short stories. His first nine novels were in Russian, but it was his publication of English prose that won him international acclaim. He is known for his love of subtle and dexterous linguistic play, and descriptions of sensory perception.
His novel Lolita (1955) is his best known work, due to its use of these Nabokov-esque traits that define it as one of the greatest 20th century English language novels, and also because it was banned in numerous countries upon its release. The plot revolves around an adult man’s all-consuming obsession with and passion for a twelve year old girl.
Other notable works include Ada (1969) and Pale Fire (1962).
Nabokov was a great proponent of individualism and freedom of expression, being a liberalist and opposed to socialism and fascism. He claimed he had synaesthesia, an involuntary reaction uniting different senses, such as connecting certain letters, numbers, tastes or sounds with colours. This often presents itself in Nabokov’s writing as a descriptive device, theme, or character trait.
He was also renowned as an entomologist, particularly as a lepidopterist, and as a composer of chess problems.
Types of rare books and memorabilia
- Strong Opinions (1973) inscribed with a signature and drawing of a butterfly. Sold for $3,172 in June 2011.
- Lolita first edition (1955, Olympia Press, Paris), sold for $1,997 in March 2005.
- Lolita first edition (1955), inscribed to Graham Greene with a butterfly, sold for $273,500 in October 2002.
- Lolita first American edition (1958, Putnam, New York), inscribed with a butterfly, sold for $163,500 in October 2002.
- Ada first edition (1969), Nabokov’s annotated copy, sold for $119,500 in October 2002.
- Lolita first English edition (1959, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London), inscribed to Graham Greene sold for $119,500 in October 2002.
- Conclusive Evidence first edition (1951), sold for $89,625 in October 2002.
- Pale Fire first edition, dedication copy to Nabokov’s wife with a butterfly, sold for $77,675 in October 2002.
- Despair first edition in English (1937) with rare dust jacket, sold for $28,800 in June 2007.
- Conclusive Evidence first edition, presentation copy inscribed with butterfly, sold for £14,400 in June 2007.
- Stikhi (poems) limited edition (1916), sold for £9,275 in June 2009.
Documents, Autographs etc
- Contract for a musical version of Lolita, signed by Nabokov, 1970. Sold for $4,270 in April 2011.
- Handwritten manuscript of The Original of Laura on index cards. Sold for £78,050 in November 2010.
Guide for collectors
The first edition of Lolita is probably the most valuable Nabokov book, perhaps due to the controversy surrounding its publication. It was published in Paris, in two volumes, in green paper wraps. Copies are much more valuable if they retain these original bindings, so it is not recommended to rebind or restore first editions. The first American edition (Putnam, 1958) and the first British edition (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1959) are also valuable, especially if signed by Nabokov.
Nabokov books are worth a huge amount more when signed or inscribed by Nabokov, particularly with the little drawings of butterflies he often added to his autographs.
Nabokov’s books are very sought after by collectors. First editions are worth infinitely more if they retain their original dust jackets.
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