Lot 39
  • 39

Nabokov, Vladimir

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • ink and paper
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. New York: Putnam’s, 1966

8vo. Publisher's black cloth. Original dust-jacket; some minor edge wear, with a 4cm closed tear to the front panel and a few smaller closed tears to the rear panel. In a cloth folding case.


Juliar A26.5

Catalogue Note

A working copy of the first edition, annotated by Nabokov with word counts at the top of each page in the first chapter, textual corrections, emphases and instructions for excerpting portions throughout on nearly twenty pages, belying his note on the dust-jacket: "Uncorrected, 1966" (with the blue marker note, "Author’s Copy," vigorously scratched out in blue ink). He has noted on the half-title: "More ancestry inserted in Ch. Three, p. 54" in ink (with a corresponding note on the dust-jacket: "At p. 54 insert Genealogical Note on Niclaus von Korff"), but crossed it out in pencil and added a new note: "See Strong Opinions p. 188 insert in p. 54 here." A second ink note remains: "Additions in paragraph one of ch. Seven, p. 142", as well as a final pencil note, "anxietastibiarum p. 266."

In the summer of 1953, “between butterfly-hunting and writing Lolita and Pnin,” lest another less able contender make an attempt, Nabokov decided to translate the autobiography into a Russian “version and recomposition” (to Katharine White, August 11, 1954, SL p. 149) with Véra’s help. Though his books were officially banned in the Soviet Union, he had a reasonably large audience among émigrés still in Europe and in the States, as well. He wrote to White that after surviving the “atrocious metamorphosis” from Russian writer to an American one, “I swore I would never go back from my wizened Hyde form to my ample Jekyll one—but there I was, after fifteen years of absence, wallowing again in the bitter luxury of my Russian verbal might…” (ibid.). Boyd offers an assessment of that version—Other Shores [Drugie berega], which appeared in New York, in Russian, in 1954: “there was much to insert, much he could not omit…The new material he added blurred the outlines of certain chapters—a blurring that would remain when he retranslated Drugie berega for the revised Speak, Memory in the mid-1960s” (TAY pp. 257-58). Nabokov found that recalling what had been “Russian memories in the first place” in his first language sharpened his memory, and called attention to the deficiencies of Conclusive Evidence.

He began a revised English-language edition in 1965 which came out in 1967 under the title Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, in which he incorporated recent corrections and “introduced basic changes and copious additions,” adding, in the foreword: “What I still have not been able to rework through want of specific documentation, I have now preferred to delete for the sake of over-all truth. On the other hand, a number of facts relating to ancestors and other personages have come to light and have been incorporated in this final version of Speak, Memory.”