Emily Ayson of Keys Fine Art Auctioneers says that first editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books continue to be in demand in the saleroom.

As the media speculation about who will take over the mantle of 007 from Daniel Craig demonstrates, the appeal of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character continues to capture the public’s imagination, some 70 years after the publication of his first Bond book, Casino Royale, in 1953.

For most people it is at the movies where they have learnt to love the swaggering spy, but of course it was in written form that Fleming’s character first appeared. 

Eastern Daily Press: Emily Ayson of Keys Fine Art AuctioneersEmily Ayson of Keys Fine Art Auctioneers (Image: Newman Associates PR)

Fleming wrote 14 Bond books which have sold over 60 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 20 languages.

For the real 007 enthusiast, it is first editions of these volumes that provide the purest iteration of the Bond legend. For collectors, the first edition is the ultimate manifestation of the love of the book as an object.  

But why should a first edition be more collectible than any subsequent reprint of a book, especially as for successful titles, publishers sometimes invest more in design and printing once they know that the title is going to be a bestseller?

Eastern Daily Press: Ian Fleming ‘Dr No’ first edition (1958), estimate £100-£150Ian Fleming ‘Dr No’ first edition (1958), estimate £100-£150 (Image: Keys Auctioneers and Valuers)

The main draw of the first edition is that it is the closest the reader can get to the author’s own actual intent. This is the first time that their work will be introduced to the world, so they tend to be much more involved in the production of a first edition than in subsequent editions, and authors may have a say in how the actual book looks, and who illustrates it.

For authors who are still in the early stages of their careers, first editions tend to be produced in relatively small quantities, adding rarity to the attraction, but beware, though, as not all first editions are rare. 

For example, by the time the later Harry Potter books were published, the first edition print runs were huge – 12 million for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Eastern Daily Press: Ian Fleming ‘For Your Eyes Only’ first edition (1960), estimate £400-£600Ian Fleming ‘For Your Eyes Only’ first edition (1960), estimate £400-£600 (Image: Keys Auctioneers and Valuers)

While very old, rare first editions can fetch staggering sums, like a first edition of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ sold for $11.2 million in 1998, increasingly first editions of more modern books that have seeped into popular culture are being sought after in the saleroom  – Ian Fleming’s James Bond books among them.

Of course, rarity and monetary value are two reasons why so many people like to collect first editions. But for the true book-lover, the main attraction will always be the close connection with the author themselves and their mindset at the time of writing.  

With a franchise such as James Bond, which after seven decades is still as relevant as ever, connecting to the very beginning presents a strong draw for the true fan.

Eastern Daily Press: Ian Fleming ‘Thunderball’ first edition (1961), estimate £100-£150Ian Fleming ‘Thunderball’ first edition (1961), estimate £100-£150 (Image: Keys Auctioneers and Valuers)

Auction houses are increasingly devoting special sales to popular and contemporary culture, including film, music and sporting memorabilia. At Keys we now hold such sales four times a year, and the last of 2023 takes place next week.  

Included amongst the 523 lots are books, comics, movie and TV memorabilia, including a huge number of posters, pop and rock memorabilia and a wide variety of sporting memorabilia. There are even two full-sized daleks going under the hammer!

Keys’ Popular Culture, Music, Film and Sporting Memorabilia Sale takes place on Wednesday, November 8 at its Aylsham salerooms and live online. Full details, including an online catalogue, can be found at keysauctions.co.uk