11 October 2002
NABOKOV, Vladimir. Pale Fire. New York: Putnam, 1962.
8o. Original black cloth, spine gilt-lettered; dust jacket (light wear to edges, single tape repair to foot of spine panel). Provenance: Véra Nabokov (dedication inscription; Vladimir Nabokov's estate bookplate).
THE DEDICATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY NABOKOV TO HIS WIFE VéRA on the dedication page two days before the official publication date: "From V Montreux April 23 1962." With an intricately drawn butterfly in blues and greys named for a species making its debut in the title poem of Pale Fire: Vanessa incognita. The narrator's derivation of that name is explained in the commentary, in his note to line 270: "It is so like the heart of a scholar in search of a fond name to pile a butterfly genus upon an Orphic divinity on top of the inevitable allusion to Vanhomrigh, Esther! In this connection a couple of lines from one of the Swift's poems (which in these backwoods I cannot locate) have stuck in my memory: 'When, lo! Vanessa in her bloom Advanced like Atlanta's star.')" Johnson is more precise: "Vanessa is a genus of color Brushfoot butterflies that occur in many parts of the world, commonly known as Painted Ladies. Nabokov's imagined species 'incognita' portrays the wing shape of this group very accurately." There is an additional butterfly - a simple pencil "lep" - on the half title, where Nabokov noted a misprint on page 53, and added: "for other misprints see my hard copy." The only other annotation in this copy is some underlining on page 67.
"This centaur work, half-poem, half prose... is a creation of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness and moral truth. Pretending to be a curio, it cannot disguise the fact that it is one of the great works of art of this century," Mary McCarthy (quoted in the NY: Vintage, 1989 edition). Juliar A35.1.
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