Collecting: First editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels 

I’ve always been a keen bibliophile and am especially enamoured by first editions. In my view, nothing connects a reader as closely to the work of an author quite like the first published edition.

Given the latter and married with my interest in the works of Ian Fleming, collecting the original James Bond books (originally published by Jonathan Cape and now Penguin) was always going to be an obvious aspiration and one very much ongoing…

Though the sums involved for a near perfect first edition of some of Fleming’s Bond stories can be vast (especially for a mint copy of 1953’s Casino Royale which can reach 5 figures), it was a pleasant surprise to learn that inexpensive copies of some first editions do exist for around the £100 mark if you are willing to sacrifice a little on the condition.

Here for the record are a few in my collection, presented with their original beautifully illustrated dustjackets by Richard Chopping.

Incidentally, the perfect companion to any collection of 007 adventures (whether first edition or today’s paperback), has to be the exhaustively researched and beautifully bound Ian Fleming – The Bibliography by Jon Gilbert (Queen Anne Press), which takes pride of place on my book shelf.

I highly recommend Adrian Harrington Rare Books where I have purchased these and other titles over the years – they provide excellent customer service. 

Thunderball – first edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1961

The Spy Who Loved Me – first edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1962

Octopussy and The Living Daylights – first edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1966 – two years after Fleming passed away


Ian Fleming – The Bibliography by Jon Gilbert (Queen Anne Press). Note the gilt stamped Fleming family crest on the cover.

If you have yet to read any of the books, the best place to start is at the beginning, with the first, and what many consider to be the best in the series – Casino Royale.

Written by Fleming in 1952 at his Jamaican home, Goldeneye, as “the spy story to end all spy stories”, the novel completed in just 6 weeks, is heavily influenced by Fleming’s experiences in British naval intelligence (personal assistant to the Director, Admiral Godfrey – whom the character M would be based upon) during World War II. The casino drama featured in the book takes place in the fictitious French coastal resort of Royale-les-Eaux (which also appears in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, published in 1963) and is said to be based on the Casino Estoril in Portugal which Fleming had visited. It still stands to this day.

Incidentally, the 1969 film adaptation of OHMSS by EON Productions (starring George Lazenby as James Bond) features sequences filmed nearby (including the Hotel Palacio where Fleming had stayed at) and the casino is highlighted in the movie, though no actually filming took place in or outside the location.

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