Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017667, Fri, 6 Feb 2009 14:43:28 -0500

Re: Botkin, V.
Dear James,
As you noted, much has been made (by James Ramey in particular) of the
italics issue in the Index. I think your theory is ingenious and can't be
disproved. In any case, it's a good example of Nabokovian reading,
regardless of VN's intentions. My own feeling is that the missing italics in
the Index are simply a mistake, a proofreading error. While the "V" and
"Hiding place" entries pique our interest, there are other examples of
missing italics that seem much less remarkable. Some of these: in "Bretwin,
Oswin," Oswin should be italicized; under Charles II, "1000" should be
italicized; under Conmal, "Duke of Aros" should be italicized, as "Duchess
of Payn" is just two entries later; under Hodinski, "681"; under Lane,
"810"; under Uran the Last, "681". Perhaps someone can figure out a pattern
here, but I cannot.

I've been collating some of the different editions of PF, and you might be
interested to know that the Berkley Medallion paperback (I have the
twentieth printing, from March 30, 1992) has the "V" italicized, as well as
"Oswin," "Hiding place," and all of the page numbers listed above, except
the 1000 under Charles II. The only probable error that it leaves untouched
is "Duke of Aros," perhaps because that seemed ambiguous as to whether it
should be italicized (to whomever was proofreading). The codicil to this
edition reads: "This Berkley book contains the complete text of the original
hardcover edition. It has been completely reset in a typeface designed for
easy reading, and was printed from new film." I find it interesting that no
other editions seem to have made these changes; instead, they follow the
original Putnam edition's lead.

Matt Roth

Several commentators have noted the peculiar typography of the ``Botkin,
V.'' index entry in Pale Fire; it stands out because the ``V'' is set in
roman, while all of the other index labels are italicized.

By typographical convention, when text is italicized for emphasis, any
words that were italicized in the original are put in roman type.

There have been various theories about this ``V'', including the reasonable
assumption that it abbreviates ``Vseslav'', the family name of Charles II.
But the typographic emphasis remains unexplained.

``V.'', in italics, is a standard abbreviation for verso. This would
suggest that Botkin and Kinbote are verso and recto -- two sides of the same
leaf, and one and the same person as hinted at several points in the

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