London: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 1969. Vladimir Nabokov. First English Edition, First Printing. Cloth. INSCRIBED, SIGNED, & DATED with a FULL-COLOR BUTTERFLY by the AUTHOR on the free front colored endpaper, thick 8vo (8 3/4" x 5 3/4"), red cloth with gold lettering on spine, Mylar-protected forest green dust jacket (unclipped) with author's name in red & "Ada" in purple lettering, forest green endpapers, [xiv]: including a double-spread genealogical table + 589 pages. Very Fine / Fine. Item #2105
PRESENTATION COPY by the distinguished author of "arguably VN's finest English-language novel" (Glenn Horowitz, 247), SIGNED "from Vladimir Nabokov" with one of his RARE, delicately and precisely hand-drawn-and-colored BUTTERFLIES. Nabokov has labeled it "Parnassius," which is not only the sacred mountain of the Greek poets, but--more importantly--the Latin name of one of our author-lepidopterist's favorite butterflies: Parnassius mnemosyne.
The author has also dated his inscription "1969"--the year of publication--and included his residence "Montreux," Switzerland.
This Parnassian butterfly figures importantly in chapter 6 of the author's brilliant autobiography, Speak, Memory. As discussed in Kurt Johnson & Steve Coates, Nabokov's Blues:
"Though not without its share of typically misleading Nabokovian irony, Chapter 6 of Speak, Memory is Nabokov's
nostalgic ode to youth, sunshine, and butterflies, the most complete account of his youthful passion; reading it is essential for anyone who wants to understand what lepidoptery meant to him. A butterfly's ghost lurks even in the title: until dissuaded by a cautious and sales-minded editor, Nabokov had wanted to call the book "Speak, Mnemosyne." Mnemosyne is Remembrance, the mother of the Greek Muses, but she is also a Parnassian butterfly, Parnassius mnemosyne, a drawing of which graces the endpaper maps of the revised version of Speak, Memory, and which, along with the Hawkmoths that flit through the book, presides over it as a sort of tutelary deity (p.112)."
Interestingly, the author inscribed his most ambitious and mature work to "Anthony" [Shuttleworth], an English admirer with several daughters--the eldest named "Vera" (like the author's wife). [See, in particular, Glenn Horowitz's beautifully executed catalogue, Vera's Butterflies (1999)--listed more fully under Bibliography below.]
At the behest of Vera, Anthony asked one of his old friends to kindly convey his cherished collection of Nabokov's works to the author, who graciously inscribed them and included this rarissima, one of his hand-drawn and favorite butterflies on ADA.
Such butterfly embellished presentations were reserved for the most special people, and--especially--these drawings were used by the author for books he presented to his beloved wife Vera.
Johnson & Coates add yet more to our understanding of this butterflied inscription in ADA, the author's majesterial work:
"Nabokov also describes how on another occasion he followed a Parnassius mnemosyne--the tutelary butterfly of Speak, Memory--into some dense underbrush and came upon Polenka, a sweetheart, splashing naked with some other children in the ruins of an old bathhouse.
Again, he says he once pedaled his bicycle through the fields near Byra and near the river he came upon the scattered clothes of peasant girls who romped naked in the water, 'heeding me as little as if I were the discarnate carrier of my present reminiscenes.' Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, 'a dense crowd of small, bright blue male butterflies that had been tippling on the rich trampled mud and cow dung through which I trudged rose all together into the spangled air and settled again as soon as I had passed.'
The mildly erotic associations of these Blue butterflies are intensified in Ada, in which Ada and Van meet for their first assignation as lovers in a park, surrounded by clouds of them (p.300)."
For this reader, ADA should be associated with Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu [aka Remembrance of Things Past], James Joyce's Ulysses, and Anthony Burgess's best works. It is to be hoped that its magisterial, cosmopolitan, intricate, yet precise treatment of the author's intercontinental and philosophical insights will grow in recognition, for Nabokov is the most brilliant and learned multi-lingual literary author (and scientist) with whom America has been graced in the Twentieth century.
"Ada brings together all that has mattered most to Nabokov: the countries and languages and literatures he loves; first love and last love and family love; memory and time; art and science, art and life; the riches of consciousness, the loss of these riches in death; the possibility of a world beyond loss. And proof of its proximity, if not to the literal details of his personal past, at least to the things he treasured, can be seen in the fact that one of Ada's central motifs, Chateaubriand's line "Du château qui baignant la Dore," was Nabokov's suggestion for the French title of his own autobiography."--(Brian Boyd, "Ada", The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov, 1995, p.12)
"Published two weeks after his seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of Nabokov's greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest. But more: it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat."--Goodreads.
"This book is like a Fabergé egg."--Karen's review on Amazon.
RARISSIMA! A first edition of the author's most ambitious work in EXCEPTIONAL CONDITION with a SIGNED PRESENTATION & detailed DRAWING by the AUTHOR of one of his more memorable butterflies: Parnassius mnemosyne.
Internally, the volume is tight, bright, and clean.
Externally, the only minor defects to this copy are minute traces of rubbing to the extremites of the unclipped dust jacket, and slight red staining on the inside of two portions of the dust jacket. We have found the same stains on a few other dust jackets for Ada first editions--thus suggesting that the dust wrapper was folded around the red-stained cloth binding before it had fully dried;. This may indicate that this was a very early printing and binding of the First Edition. Juliar, A40.2
Blackwell, Stephen H., Fine Lines: Nabokov's Scientific Art, Yale University Press, 2016.
Brian Boyd, "Ada", The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Vladimir E. Alexandrov, New York and
London: Garland Publishing, 1995, pages 3-18.
-----, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, (1980).
Horowitz, Glenn, ed., Vera's Butterflies: First editions by Vladimir Nabokov / inscribed to his wife, New York City: Glenn Horowtiz Bookseller, Inc., 1999.
Johnson, Kurt & Steve Coates, Nabokov's Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius, New York: McGraw-Hill,
Juliar, Michael, Vladimir Nabokov: A Descriptive Bibliography, New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1986.