For many people their first introduction to the world of James Bond was via the paperback versions of Ian Fleming’s novels that first appeared during the mid 1950’s. Since then the Bond novels have seldom been out of print and have been reissued with many different covers, some featuring superb artwork that has rarely been seen since. The 1950’s covers had painted artwork that evolved in to the simple graphic representations of the 1960’s and the superb “Still-life” series from the UK that appeared in the 1970’s.

The UK paperback edition of Casino Royale featured what was to be the first pictorial representation of the character of Bond and his face was based on a photograph of American actor Richard Conte.

Whilst the novels had been very successful in the UK, the series got off to a shaky start in the USA and the first paperback versions underwent a slight “Americanization” to help them reach the right market. Casino Royale was re-titled “You Asked For It” and had a lurid pulp detective style cover. Ian Fleming objected to this title and offered “The Double-O Agent” or “The Deadly Gamble” as alternatives. Moonraker became “Too Hot to Handle” and had a slightly better cover painted by Lou Marchetti. The early Signet novels featured simple painted images of the main characters whereas later reprints by Perma Books utilised superb full cover illustrations by artists James Meese and William Rose.

 

Following Fleming’s death, Glidrose (the copyright holders of his work) decided to continue the James Bond novels with different writers who would all use the pseudonym Robert Markham. The first new novel was entitled Colonel Sun and was published on 28th March 1968 to mixed reviews. The cover artwork was painted by Tom Adams in a Salvador Dali style with dragon shaped clouds, melting guns and other surreal images. It transpired that Kingsley Amis was the true author of the novel and it was also he who had revised Fleming’s last full length novel The Man with the Golden Gun prior to its publication in April 1965. Amis had also wrote an in-depth essay entitled The James Bond Dossier in 1965 which had a cover designed by Jan Pienkowski using detail from the Richard Chopping paintings. In a very busy year Amis also wrote (under the pseudonym of Lt.- Col William “Bill” Tanner) The Book of Bond or Every man his own 007 (below) in which he lists all the attributes required to become 007 – how to dress, drink, smoke, act and look like everyone’s favourite secret agent! Using the information from Fleming’s novels this amusing but slim volume had a cover designed by Raymond Hawkey that was reversible for work in the field and transformed the book into “The Bible revised to be read as literature”.

The later James Bond novels by John Gardner had cover art that tried to imitate the style of Richard Chopping but those eventually gave way to simple graphic designs that are not particularly memorable. The only other first editions of any merit are the series that graced the Book Club publication of the novels in UK. Technically it is the Book Club that produced the true first edition of From Russia, With Love in 1957 when Jonathan Cape rejected the first print run (which has light blue boards) as flawed and sold all the copies to the Club who issued the novel with the Richard Chopping cover. The Book Club editions feature some interesting artwork (mostly by Cuthill) but are not as valuable as their Jonathan Cape counterparts but nonetheless remain very collectible. The later Cape editions of the Fleming novels were promoted with posters devised by Jan Pienkowski.

 

From 1953 until his death in 1964, Ian Fleming wrote twelve novels and two collections of short stories about James Bond, Secret Agent 007. The novels were first published in the UK and in their first edition format are now highly prized collectors items. The dust-jackets for the Jonathan Cape first editions are works of art in themselves, the first three novels having covers designed by Fleming himself (although the covers to Moonraker and Live and Let Die were executed by Kenneth Lewis). First published on 13th April 1953, Casino Royale had an original printing of only 4750 copies which makes this novel very hard to find and extremely valuable today. Live and Let Die was published on 5th April 1954 in a print run that was increased to 7500 copies. A later edition of Casino Royale featured a redesigned cover by Pat Marriott who would also be responsible for the cover artwork of Diamonds are Forever and Dr. No. A later reprint of Moonraker had a black cover, with the title embossed in silver foil but the original printing from 7th April 1955 remains the most sought after version.

By far the rarest of all the James Bond first editions is the original version of The Man with the Golden Gun published on 1st April 1965. An embossed golden gun was stamped on the front boards which unfortunately oxidized and had to be recalled by the publishers (although some copies did get released abroad and now command very high prices at auction). This was not the first time that an error had occurred once one of the Bond books had gone to print. On 26th March 1956, 12500 copies of Diamonds are Forever were released with an incorrectly numbered chapter listing that was rectified in later reprints along with some minor text amendments by Fleming after it was discovered that his wife’s cousin had objected to his name being attributed to one of the novels villains.

Another rarity is the limited edition version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which was released on the same day as the standard first edition but with a unique frontispiece featuring an exclusive portrait of the author by his friend Amherst Villiers. The limited edition had a clear acetate cover which showed off the white ski trails embossed on the boards. All 250 copies were numbered and signed by Ian Fleming making this a very collectible version of the novel but one that is extremely hard to find today. Jonathan Cape used the Amherst Villiers portrait of Fleming on their promotional posters for the book.

Published on 8th April 1957, From Russia, With Love was the first James Bond novel to feature dust-jacket artwork painted in the trompe l’oeil style by Richard Chopping. The design, from an idea by Fleming, was a superbly detailed painting of a sawn-off .38 Smith & Wesson revolver that belonged to his friend Geoffrey Boothroyd – a gun expert who was to be a regular character in the novels and became the genesis of “Q” in the films.