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Vladimir Nabokov’s Drawings of Butterflies

In honor of Vladimir Nabokov’s upcoming birthday, we thought we’d take a look at the literary great’s artistic expression of the one thing he loved as much as language – lepidoptera. In his whirling autobiography, Speak, Memory, Nabokov writes, “From the age of seven, everything I felt a connection with a rectangle of framed sunlight was dominated by a single passion. If my first glance of the morning was for the sun, my first thought was for the butterflies it would engender… I have hunted butterflies in various climes and disguises: as a pretty boy in knickerbockers and sailor cap; as a lanky cosmopolitan expatriate in flannel bags and beret; as a fat hatless old man in shorts.” We must say, we love the idea of this in its every iteration. In general, most of the butterflies Nabokov drew were for “family use” – he sketched them as inscriptions in the title pages of his novels for his wife, Véra, his son, or other members of his family. Though he knew a great deal about butterflies, he never drew real ones – all of the drawings represent invented species, both in design and in name. See some of our favorite specimens after the jump.

Photograph of a young Nabokov with butterfly doodles by the man himself.

A drawn inscription in his final novel, Look at the Harlequins! To Véra, of course. [via Cornell]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

The author’s own copy of Lolita. [via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via the Nabokov Museum]

[via Life]

[via Arcadja]

This last drawing comes from a letter Nabokov once wrote to Playboy, musing “Have you ever noticed how the head and ears of your Rabbit resemble a butterfly in shape?” and including the above sketch. Brilliant. [via Arcadja]

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