NABOKOV, Vladimir. Ada, or Ardor. A Family Chronicle. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969.
8o. Original black cloth, spine gilt-lettered (some wear). Provenance: Vladimir Nabokov (annotations throughout).
FIRST EDITION. NABOKOV'S COPIOUSLY ANNOTATED COPY with his notes on nearly all 589 pages, labeled on the front free endpaper: "Author's copy" with a five-word note in Russian: "a book of genius - the pearl of American literature," an inscription Body has traced to a copy of Madame Bovary Nabokov's father had given him, with an identical inscription in French, calling it "a book of genius - the pearl of French literature." He speculates that though Nabokov's "echoing" inscription in his copy of Ada "may well be a joke... there must have been a grain of seriousness to provoke that 'pearl' into being. After all, Ada's long first part opens with an echo of the opening of Anna Karenina and ends with an echo of the end of part 1 of Madame Bovary, as if it were signaling its intention to vie with the greatest novels of the Russian and the French traditions." (Body, p. 3).
Nabokov wrote on the first text page that this is the copy he used in considering the translation of Ada into French and Italian, and in envisioning a later edition in English, as well. The half-title is covered with page numbers and corresponding corrections, in pencil and blue pencil, with several of Véra's corrections as well. The facing page is covered with various notes: a lengthy passage about translation, written in French, a few "sample" passages to translate into French, and several phrases in Russian. In addition, Nabokov decoded allusions throughout--to his own works, to other parts of Ada, and to a wide range of literary and cultural moments.
This copy is an important for scholars and teachers of Nabokov's work, who may or may not have figured out that "Billionaire Bill" is Shakespeare, that "Sig Leymanski" is Kingsley Amis, that "Dr. Henry" is Henry James, and that "The Weed Exiles the Flower" is derived from line 6 of Melville's short poem "The Ravaged Villa" (1891). Additionally, Nabokov has helpfully explained various references to flora and fauna throughout, and culturally defined objects which are foreign to most Western readers -- such as "stella," a "four dollar gold piece." His frequent "T"'s and occasional spot translations in this copy, which indicate patches of text slippery to the reader in English, evince his concern that the novel would pose no end of impossible riddles to the foreign translator, as it continues to challenge the English-speaking reader.
[Laid in]: Magazine clipping depicting a woman in a large hat, INSCRIBED BY NABOKOV in reference to Ada: "A modern--and much finer version--of the vulgar Toulouse Lautrec poster 'Divan Japonais'... See description of Lucette p. 460-1." The passage conjured by the ad reads: "'Your hat,' he said 'is possitively Lautrec-montesque--I mean, lautrecaquesque--no, I can't form the adjective.'" This clipping, along with Nabokov's multitudinous annotations, reveals that the novel continued to resonate for the author, as well. In a letter to Carl Proffer clearing up some points to be made in his Keys to Lolita he makes reference to this clipping. Also inserted are nine Red Cross Christmas 1969 butterfly stamps, and a one-page typescirpt on beaver fur, headed "Marina's and Ada's furs," with Nabokov's pencil annotations. Juliar A40.1.