James Bond, and his creator Ian Fleming, are household names the world over. Fleming wrote twelve novels, and two collections of short stories, inspiring a franchise of 26 films to date, with the next actor to play Bond a hotly discussed topic in the media. Correspondingly, first editions of Fleming's Bond novels are highly sought after, particularly those published in the 1950s, prior to the first James Bond film release,"Dr No", in 1962.
On 9th October 2019, our selection of Ian Fleming James Bond novels offered in the Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photography auction achieved a fantastic grand total of over £97k incl premium, with 'Casino Royale' setting a world auction record, selling for £55,000 incl premium and 'Live and Let Die' achieving a fantastic £30,000 incl premium.
Fleming's first novel was published on the 13th April 1953. The reverse of the dust-jacket for “Casino Royale” describes Fleming thus: “Ian Fleming is 44. Like his brother Peter, the more famous author, he was educated at Eton.” Peter Fleming is today invariable described as “the older brother of Ian Fleming”.
The work was published in a run of just over 4500 copies: a figure which seems large but pales in comparison to the posthumously published "The Man With the Golden Gun", which commanded a print run of 82,000 copies. Today, first edition copies of "Casino Royale" complete with dust-jacket are relatively rare - inscribed copies are even more unusual.
This first edition, first impression of Fleming's "Casino Royale" is inscribed by Fleming to Alastair McKinley, with the deliciously furtive message: "Alastair, from the Author - Read & Burn".
Bond was originally to be named James Secretan, however Fleming revised his decision to James Bond upon seeing the name of the author of "Birds of the West Indies". Initially intending for James Bond to be a passive character to whom things happened, Fleming said that it was "the dullest name I ever heard." The character of Bond naturally changed, developing into the handsome and intelligent lothario of the series.
Within a month of its release in the UK, "Casino Royale" had sold out. The popularity of the book led the publisher, Jonathan Cape, to increase the print run of "Live and Let Die", published on 5th April 1954, to around 7500 copies.
Once again, this first edition of "Live and Let Die" is inscribed by Fleming himself: "To Robert Bartlett from the Author 1954"
Bartlett was a fellow officer of Fleming's during the Second World War, both men serving in the Naval Intelligence Division.During this time, Barlett sketched Fleming's portrait, which Fleming subsequently used (and credited) on the rear cover of "Casino Royale". This makes the book a touching association copy of the work.
“Moonraker” followed “Live and Let Die” in 1955 with a print run of around 9900 copies, followed just under a year later by “Diamonds are Forever”. The iconic dust-jacket of this volume, displaying a woman’s torso bearing a large and brilliant diamond, was the first designed by Pat Marriott, Kenneth Lewis having illustrated previous jackets.
Ian Fleming would only live another nine years following the publication of “Diamonds are Forever” - he died from a heart attack on the 12th August 1964, leaving behind a 12 year-old son, Caspar. However, during this time he successfully published eight further James Bond novels, with “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “Octopussy and the Living Daylights” appearing after his death. The print runs for the first editions of the books steadily climbed, dipping a little for “Octopussy”. Correspondingly, the prices achieved for first editions of Fleming’s books tend to fall as the print run for the first edition increases, and rarity therefore decreases.
“The Man with the Golden Gun” is a notorious exception to the rule. Although the print run for the first edition comprised 82,000 copies, around 940 of these books can truly be said to be the ‘first issue’ of the work, owing to the distinctive presence of a golden foil gun embossed onto the upper cover. The addition of this motif proved to be too costly before even 1000 were produced, making this first issue of the book exceedingly rare, especially with an intact dust-jacket. This copy realised £4,625 incl premium at auction.
There is a distinctive growing interest in modern first editions being sold at auction. Alongside J.K. Rowling, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are increasingly popular, with prices for good early editions in handsome dust-jackets steadily rising. Inscribed and signed works are especially well prized.
AUCTION | Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photography | Wednesday, 9th October at 11:00am