Vladimir Nabokov's never-finished novel, "The Original of Laura," has finally been published to great interest and excitement. In honor of the new publication, LIFE Magazine is today releasing a gallery of rare photographs of the "Lolita" author. The Huffington Post brings you some highlights from the gallery below, along with LIFE's captions.
"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written," John Updike once wrote. "That is, ecstatically." In 1959, LIFE Magazine sent photographer Carl Mydans to Ithaca, New York to shoot the Russian-born author, whose magnum opus "Lolita" was breaking sales records across the country. Most of the photos from that series were never published -- a handful appeared in LIFE's international edition -- but they offer an unique look into the private life of one of the titans of American literature. To mark the recent publication of Nabokov's last, unfinished novel "The Original of Laura," LIFE now presents the unpublished photos from that shoot.
Portrait of the Author Few modern authors can boast Nabokov's critical reception or his sphere of influence. His every word was a joy to read. Here, the opening lines from Lolita, perhaps his most famous: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."
The Author Lunges Nabokov nearly catches an unsuspecting butterfly.
Vera A portrait of Nabokov's wife Vera while on a butterfly hunt.
The Butterfly Effect Nabokov displays a day's haul. In 1967, he told The Paris Review: "The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all."
Vera Challenges the Master Along with butterfly catching, Nabokov's other favorite pastime was chess and he claimed to craft chess problems with the same "originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity" that he used to create art. Here, he squares off against his wife, Vera, possibly relying on the Luzhin Defense.
To see the rest of the rare and unpublished photos of Nabokov, go to LIFE.com.