- Apr 2022
When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura. But Nabokov’s wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy her husband’s last work, and when she died, the fate of the manuscript fell to her son. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five—the Russian novelist’s only surviving heir, and translator of many of his books—has wrestled for three decades with the decision of whether to honor his father’s wish or preserve for posterity the last piece of writing of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
Nabokov's wishes were that his heirs burn the index cards on which he had handwritten the beginning of his unfinished novel The Original of Laura. His wife Vera, not able to destroy her husband's work, couldn't do it, so the decision fell to their son Dimitri. Having translated many of his father's works previously, Dimitri Nabokov ultimately allowed Penguin the right to publish the unfinished novel.
t his death the great Italian humanist AngeloPoliziano (1454–94), for example, left many volumes of notes and papers. Thesewere rapidly dispersed among students and peers, who variously wished to own,read, or publish them, under Poliziano’s name but sometimes also without attrib-uting them. Today dozens of volumes of Poliziano’s manuscripts are scatteredacross many European libraries, and an important manuscript of his Miscel-lanea was rediscovered as recently as a few decades ago
Victor Hugo was the first author to bequeath his papers to the Bibliothèque nationale;see Espagne (1998), 217; Grésillon (2000).
Pliny’s abundant reading and note-taking in one of his nephew’s letters (which I discuss in more detail below).
The earliest survivingauthor’s manuscripts date from late eleventh- century Italy and include somemanuscripts of Petrarch from the fourteenth century, but large collections ofpapers by scholars first survive from the fifteenth century and in increasing num-bers from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The study of personal papers was pioneered by a school of literary criticism (“ge-netic criticism”) that focused on famous authors of the nineteenth and twentiethcenturies who often deposited their papers in national libraries.
- personal papers
- note taking
- genetic criticism
- note taking methods
- Angelo Poliziano
- Victor Hugo
- literary criticism