Lolita Book Covers: 200+ Designs From 40 Countries Since 1955, Including Nabokov’s Favorite Design

nabokov's favorite lolita cover

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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vladimir Nabokov Names the Great­est (and Most Over­rat­ed) Nov­els of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

Vladimir Nabokov (Chan­nelled by Christo­pher Plum­mer) Teach­es Kaf­ka at Cor­nell

Vladimir Nabokov Mar­vels Over Dif­fer­ent “Loli­ta” Book Cov­ers

The Note­cards on Which Vladimir Nabokov Wrote Loli­ta: A Look Inside the Author’s Cre­ative Process

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Comments (5)
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  • Maranda says:

    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.

  • Tracy says:

    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.

  • Eugene says:

    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.

  • Saulo says:

    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…

  • Keith Crooks says:

    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.

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