photos by Marco Warmuth
The Olympia Press
[first edition, second imprint]
178 x 124 x 25 mm
now to be found in the collection:
Two full leather bindings in dark red goatskin with sewn sharp-green silk headbands and leather joints. Both volumes have moody aubergine-grey bord-à-bord doublures with a facing flyleaf in
sallow yellow [Vol.1] or dank green [Vol. 2]. The books are housed in a hinged chemise that is covered in green, purple, and yellow papers and which lives in a green slipcase.
The books’ design is hand tooled in a free flowing play of small tapered lines in light blue and green pigment foil, and, on the front board of Vol.2, a bunch of parallel longer lines in sharp white, cream, and yellow. Both volumes have ‘Lolita’ tooled in matt silver foil onto the spines, running upwards. The double chemise is hinged at the fore-edge and can be unfolded, thus revealing that the inner facing sides are covered with light yellow paper [inlaid with a circle of even brighter yellow] whilst the outer sides are covered with green paper inlaid with a broad band of purple. The chemises spines’ titling differs from the books’, as it reads ‘Lolita’ [vol.1] and ‘by Vladimir Nabokov’ [vol.2]. The slipcase is fitted to the spines and is lined, as is the chemise, with green Alcantara. All papers used are hand-dyed.
The group rests in a drop-back box which doubles as the artwork’s trousseau. Two drawers contain a.) all the tooling master templates that were used for the execution of the design, and b.) the publisher’s original green paper covers, carefully preserved.
“She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
As he puts down these words, narrator Humbert Humbert sits in confinement, awaiting his trial for murder. However, “had I come before myself, I would have given Humbert at least thirty-five years for rape, and dismissed the rest of the charges.” These two quotes bracket the text, where Humbert addresses an imaginary jury in preparation of his trial, carefully - and artfully - laying out his story.
His youth, a marriage, his partiality for ‘nymphets’. And then, later, in dazzling heat, his first glimpse of Lolita, lying on the lawn stretching her toes. Humbert Humbert can’t take his eyes off her. Partiality for nymphets turns into obsession, and Humbert Humbert into a relentless predator. The end of volume one sees Lolita uprooted and in his power. On the road, in volume two, they criss-cross the country. Humbert tries his best to distract Lolita’s attention from her dismal life. However, it is only a matter of time that Lolita either grows up or escapes. She runs off and Humbert Humbert is devastated. His focus now shifts to the void Lolita has left, trying to find her once more.
Throughout his writings Humbert addresses the reader directly. He does this skilfully and cunningly.
Vladimir Nabokov, the author, juxtaposes utmost beauty of form with abhorrent content.
It is quite extraordinary.