How to market a book like Lolita, which, upon its publication in 1955, promptly found itself banned in France, Britain, New Zealand, Argentina and other countries? Carefully. At least at first.
Over at Covering Lolita, you can see an archive of the designs that have adorned the cover of the famously controversial book. It all starts with the original 1955 edition, which was the most vanilla cover imaginable. Lolita and Humbert Humbert — they were nowhere to be seen.
By the 1960s, publishers got a little less gun shy, and the covers, more risqué. See this 1964 Turkish version as an example. Or the second image above, a Danish cover from 1963.
So what cover did Nabokov personally favor? Glad you asked. Long ago, we showed you some footage of Nabokov marveling over different “Lolita” cover designs. And, in it, he points to his favorite: a French sketch from 1963, which appears up top.
This just a small sampling of what you will find in the Covering Lolita Archive, a gallery that currently contains 210 book and media covers from 40 countries, spanning 58 years.
The archive brings you right up to 2014. (2015 and 2016 will likely be accounted for pretty soon.) If you have a favorite design, please let us know in the comments section below.
Note: You can download essential works by Vladimir Nabokov as free audiobooks (including Jeremy Irons reading Lolita) if you sign up for a 30-Day Free Trial with Audible. Find more information on that program here.
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Vladimir Nabokov Marvels Over Different “Lolita” Book Covers
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I am partial to the 1997 edition cover. It only shows a girl’s legs from the bottom of her skirt to her feet. The short length of her skirt paired with her saddle shoes suggest she is trying to be a fashionable young woman, but is still a child. The position of her legs seems to convey uncertainty and vulnerability. I think it depicts the character quite well. She plays at being a woman, but she is still very much a child.
I remember reading this book one summer, it was the 1980 edition and it smelt of suntan oil and the pages turned yellow. This is my favourite and I always see that cover when I hear the name Lolita.
I’d go for the 1973 Berkley Medallion Book’s cover, even though I feel it’s not as artistically as polished as I hoped it would be. The cover emphasizes H. H. as the real protagonist of the novel, and the concept of ‘Lolita’ being a mere figment of his imagination. A greater emphasis on H. H. would be nice. Have yet to see a cover I really like. I have the 2008 Penguin Australian cover, by the way.
I always find it fun that most covers depict Lola as a pale blonde girl (even the word Lolita evokes images of young, petite blondes, if Google is to be believed) when the book specifically mentions she’s a brunette with tanned skin.
probably Stanley Kubrick is to blame for it, though…
I prefer the original edition from the Olympia Press in Paris which simply has a plain green cover as one can appreciate the gravitas of the work as a whole.It is a literary masterpiece after all.