Nabokov at Cornell: Celebrating Lolita's Fiftieth Anniversary

Cornell University Library celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, first published in Paris on September 15, 1955. Nabokov wrote the novel during the ten-year period he lived in Ithaca and taught at Cornell, from July 1948 to February 1959.

By Nabokov's own account, he completed Lolita in Ithaca at the end of 1953. Over the course of 1954, he tried but failed to find a U.S. publisher willing to take the risk of handling the book. Disheartened, Nabokov wrote to Madame Ergaz, his literary agent at the Bureau Littéraire Clairouin in Paris, seeking her help in finding a European firm willing to publish the book in English. Nabokov sent his typescript of Lolita to Madame Ergaz in April 1955, and she placed the book with Maurice Girodias at the Olympia Press, Paris.

Documents covering the history of the publication of Lolita, from first editions, to manuscript letters, to Nabokov's own copies of some of his works, are housed in Cornell Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. Highlights from the collection are on view on the 2b level of Cornell's Carl A. Kroch Library from September 7 through October 17, 2005.

Louise Boyle Cornell publicity photograph of Nabokov shot in Ithaca early in 1949. [view]

Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita. Paris: Olympia Press, 1955. Photo by Tom Fecht. [view]

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