An inscribed first edition of Ian Fleming’s 1953 James Bond novel, Casino Royale, sold for £21,000 ($40,454 USD) as part of Bloomsbury Auctions Continental and English Literature and Modern First Editions sale held on February 24, 2005. The final sale was transacted after the auction had ended.
This rare copy of the first Bond novel (basis for the next James Bond film) came from the private collection of Fleming’s great friend, bookseller Percy Muir. The book carries the unique inscription: “To Percy who guided my early steps in literature – but not down those dark corridors! Affectionately Ian.” Loosely inserted is a colour photograph of Fleming with ornithologist and author of Birds of the West Indies, James Bond (mistakenly identified by Bloomsbury as Terence James Bond, who is a different person entirely), whose name Fleming adapted for his iconic agent 007.
Fleming met Muir in the 1930s when he visited his bookshop and asked him to recommend and send books to him while he was studying at the University of Geneva. Some time later Fleming came to see him and announced that he had made £250 on the stock exchange and wanted to collect books that started something, such as the first book on zip fasteners. Muir persuaded Fleming to widen the scope of his collecting to include books and papers that changed the course of mankind. The collection grew swiftly until it numbered some 2000 pieces. The close friendship between the two men resulted in a varied and steady correspondence spanning many years.
At one point, Muir offered Fleming a first edition of Casino Royale for his collection, for which Fleming replied; “Naturally I would love to have the Casino Royale — very fragrant thought of yours. Incidentally I think it is the only Fleming first worth having as I think the first edition was only 3000 copies.” (The actual number was 4,750, although a great many of these were reserved for libraries.)
A group of letters relating to Fleming and Muir’s shared business activities at The Book Collector magazine (where Fleming was an enthusiastic though intermittent business partner) sold for £4,165 ($8,022 USD).
Also up for auction was a special signed limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, number 37 of only 250 copies, which sold for £4,760 ($9,168.27 USD). A regular first edition of that same novel, signed “To Birdie/From the same old beast!/x/Ian”, nabbed a surprising £3,332 ($6,417.91 USD). A first edition of Dr. No went for £524 ($1,009 USD).
Two Fleming related BBC radio transcripts from 1966, together with the Address given at Fleming’s Memorial Service, fetched £893 ($1,720 USD).
Bloomsbury Auctions is known for Modern First Editions and over the last few years has become the place to buy and sell Ian Fleming. Last November, Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reported that a first edition of Ian Fleming’s novel From Russia With Love, once owned by Fleming’s friend Geoffrey Boothroyd (the model for gadget master “Q”), achieved a world record price for a Fleming first when it sold for £22,750 ($43,820 USD).