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Nabokov's Butterfly: And Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books Paperback – June 22, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Rick Gekoski became a book runner while working on his PhD in English at Oxford. In the 1980s he left his lectureship at the University of Warwick to become a full-time, full-fledged rare book dealer—a vocation that led to a series of radio programs for the BBC titled Rare Books, Rare People.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (June 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786716541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786716548
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,068,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Roberts on October 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rick Gekoski's book is much better than similar titles in the "let me tell you about the great books I've found" genre. Unlike David Meyer's *Memoirs of a Book Snake* or John Baxter's *A Pound of Paper*, which lean toward autobiography, Gekoski focuses primarily on the twenty books at hand. Each chapter details the publishing history of a classic (*Ulysses*, *The Catcher in the Rye*, *Lord of the Flies*, *Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone*, *The Hobbit*, etc.), including the politics, frustrations, and joys involved in bringing a text to life. Gekoski does provide the occasional book hunter's tale, but keeps his eye on the book at hand and restrains from self-promotion. I did not keep the books mentioned above, but will happily place this book on my shelf next to two of my favorites: Robert Wilson's <em>Modern Book Collecting* and Nicholas Basbanes's *Among the Gently Mad*. A fun and educational read!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nabokov's Butterfly is a short but delightful book about some of Rick Gekoski's most memorable moments as a rare book dealer and collector. I particularly enjoyed the segments where Gekoski describes his personal friendships and contacts with some of the authors. I was amazed at some of the prices he has received for some books, and interested to see how authors go in and out of fashion, so that someone no one bothered to collect twenty years ago can suddenly become highly collectable and extremely expensive. (And enormously profitable to those far sighted enough to collect them ahead of time!)

This book is about both the love of book collecting and the art of selling them. While personally I doubt I could ever bear to sell some of the volumes Gekoski deals with if I were lucky enough to have them in my possession, I enjoyed this glimpse into what has obviously been a fascinating career.
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Format: Paperback
This is a stand-out entry in the genre of "Books about Books". The author Rick Gekoski is an American who went to the U.K. for post-graduate education and ended up staying there, first as a university lecturer in English literature and then as a rare book dealer specializing in 20th-Century English literature. In NABOKOV'S BUTTERLY, Gekoski writes about twenty landmark or otherwise rare works of 20th-Century English literature from the two perspectives in which he has particular expertise: rare book dealer and lecturer in English literature. Thus, more so than any other book I can think of, NABOKOV'S BUTTERFLY is a hybrid between a book about the rare book trade and one of commentary about works of literature and noted authors.

As a rare book dealer Gekoski personally handled many of the books or other items (for example, J.R.R. Tolkien's academic gown from Merton College, Oxford) discussed in the book, and he personally knew or dealt with some of the authors or other literary figures who are discussed. To give you a better idea of the scope of the book, here are a few more of its subjects (in addition to "Tolkien's Gown", which was the title of the book as originally published in the U.K.):

* A copy of the original Paris edition of Nabokov's "Lolita," inscribed by Nabokov to Graham Greene (an inscription that includes a characteristically enchanting drawing of a butterfly) -- an item that Greene sold to Gekoski and which he in turn sold to Bernie Taupin.

* The holograph manuscript of William Golding's "Lord of the Flies," which Golding had written in school exercise books and kept in a safety deposit box.

* The archive of biographical materials that Ian Hamilton assembled during his research for a biography of J.D.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By nivloe on February 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Having just started a course in Rare Books and Manuscripts, I picked up this book on a whim and am happy to report that it is a great read for anyone interested in the goings-on of book dealers and collectors. This book is especially for anyone who takes interest in contemporary authors (the accounts of J.D. Salinger, Graham Greene, Salman Rushdie etc., are fascinating!). It's a book for people who are interested in the details of the book as an object itself -what makes an edition unique or valuable-, and might interest anyone who thinks they may have some old, valuable books sitting around in their basements. Gegoski is a skilled storyteller, it's one of the fastest reads I've done in a long time. I'd definitely read a second volume if he has any more stories to share in the future...
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