The word "Zembla" is derived from the Russian "zemlia," meaning "land." Zembla is the name of a "distant northern land" in Nabokov's novel Pale Fire.
Zembla was conceived by Jeff Edmunds in 1994 while he was serving as associate editor of Nabokov Studies, a scholarly print journal of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society. At the third international Nabokov conference, held in Nice in the summer of 1995, Mr. Edmunds discussed his ideas for a Nabokov WWW site with several prominent Nabokovians, Dolorologists, and even a Shadean or two, among them D. Barton Johnson (then President of the Nabokov Society), Zoran Kuzmanovich (currently editor of Nabokov Studies), and Brian Boyd (author of the definitive two-volume biography of VN published by Princeton University Press in 1990 and 1991). Upon returning from France, Mr. Edmunds drafted a proposal for the University Libraries of the Pennsylvania State University to sponsor and support the site. The International Nabokov Society and Penn State professors Michael H. Begnal (English) and Michael Naydan (Slavic) wrote letters in support of the proposal, which was approved by Associate Dean Gloriana St. Clair (now University Librarian at Carnegie Mellon University) and Dean Nancy Cline (now Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College).
Zembla went on-line on 1 December 1995. Since its inception it has averaged 50,000 hits per year, and requests for the site's 19+ megabytes of materials consistently account for a large percentage of the hits to the University Libraries server each month. The current version of Zembla includes over 1000 files.
The first phase of Zembla was designed by Jeff Edmunds, with several original graphics generously donated by Sarah Anastasia Hahn, of . Phase two, featuring a blue color scheme, new graphics, and the distinctive Karner Blue butterfly button, was largely designed by Ms. Hahn. The most recent avatar of Zembla, featuring frame navigation, full keyword search capability, new graphics, and several new textual sections, was conceived and designed by Jeff Edmunds in collaboration with John Hamilton. The graphics are by Jeff Edmunds, with additional images by Sarah Anastasia Hahn as noted.
Zembla depends on frames for navigation. If you have been referred to this page without the surrounding frame, click here.