The Art of James Bond

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.

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