Collecting James Bond First Editions | The Cataloguer's Desk

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Collecting James Bond First Editions

casino royale first edition book

Casino Royale first edition, 1953.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond titles are some of the most popular spy thrillers ever written. They’re also beautifully designed books that look great as a set, and they’re a fun and accessible starting point for those interested in collecting  modern literature.

Unlike some authors with complex publishing histories, Ian Fleming is straight-forward and his first editions are easy to identify. He wrote 14 James Bond books, all of which were published by Jonathan Cape in London between 1953 and 1966. There are only two simple rules to identify a Fleming first edition:

  • the novel should say Jonathan Cape on the title page
  • and it should state “First published…” with the correct year (and no others) on the back of the title page. Just like this copy of The Spy Who Loved Me:

Title page of The Spy Who Loved Me, first edition.

Copyright page for The Spy Who Loved Me, first edition.

To be truly collectible, a first edition Bond novel needs to be in its original dust jacket. For 13 of the 14 books it is easy to tell a first edition jacket: it must not bear any self-referential quotations from critics. For instance, dust jackets for Casino Royale that include a quote from the Sunday Times’ review of that novel are all second or later impressions.

Only one Bond novel has a specific point related to the jacket: second impression jackets for Live and Let Die have a line on the front flap that credits the jacket designer. First impressions, such as the one pictured below, do not have this line, which is referred to as the “jacket design slug”.

Live and Let Die – correct first edition jacket flap without designer credit.

For collectors who have obtained the basic set of first editions there are two additional books that can be added to garnish their collection:

When The Man with the Golden Gun was first published a very small number of copies were decorated with a golden gun. For some reason, either the expense or practicality of applying the design, this was quickly abandoned and copies in this state are now rare:

Man with the Golden Gun first edition, first state with golden gun to cover.

There is also a signed limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only signed limited edition of a Bond novel produced during Fleming’s lifetime:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service signed limited edition.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service signed limited edition.

In addition to their simplicity, James Bond novels are also popular because of their affordability, as the disparity between prices at different levels of condition is much greater than in other modern books.  Perfect copies can run into the tens of thousands of pounds, but it is possible to find nice ones ranging from only a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, depending on the book. Condition is a primary consideration when valuing Bond novels, and even a flaw as minor as a price-clipped dust jacket can noticeably affect the price, which is good for collectors. Scarcity also plays a role. Fleming’s last book, Octopussy, is common enough that fine copies are valued at around £175 pounds.

Fleming’s Bond titles have also been consistently strong sellers, steadily increasing in value over the last fifty years, particularly when associated with a blockbuster film. Until 2006 Casino Royale was the only one of Flemings’ novels left unfilmed, and its popularity  was considerably revived upon the release of the excellent cinema adaptation starring Daniel Craig. (The film’s title sequence, which you can see at YouTube, was directly inspired by the dust jacket of the first edition.)

After Fleming’s death in 1964 other authors were hired to continue the Bond franchise, most notably Kingsley Amis, who published Colonel Sun in 1968 under the pen name Robert Markham. The original 14 books, though, continue to hold the most appeal to readers, film fans, and book collectors. Below, images of all the books in chronological order.  Click here to see the Ian Fleming titles that we currently have in stock, or sell book to us if you’d like to sell a first edition Bond novel.

Cover of Casino Royale first edition.

Live and Let Die first edition, 1954.

Moonraker first edition, 1955.

Diamonds Are Forever first edition, 1956.

From Russia With Love, 1957.

Cover of From Russia with Love first edition.

Dr. No first edition, 1958.

Goldfinger first edition, 1959.

For Your Eyes Only first edition, 1960.

Cover of For Your Eyes Only first edition.

Thunderball first edition, 1961.

The Spy Who Loved Me first edition, 1962.

Cover of The Spy Who Loved Me first edition.

One Her Majesty’s Secret Service first edition, 1963.

You Only Live Twice first edition, 1964.

The Man with the Golden Gun first edition, 1965.

Octopussy and the Living Daylights first edition, 1966.

 

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22 Comments

  1. brad

    July 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    This is wrong considering I have copies from the late 1940’s

    1. Laura Massey

      July 12, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Hi Brad,

      No James Bond novels were published before 1953. If you’d like to send us photographs of yuor books we might be able to date them for you.

  2. Dave Ramsden

    August 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Hi

    I have looking at number of Bond books on the Adrian Harrington website and note some will say eg FIRST EDITION, First Impression, Second State. Can you please explain the difference and how these can be told apart.
    Thank you
    Dave Ramsden

  3. steve

    September 26, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Laura
    I have a copy of from Russia with Love, the copyright page states “First Published 1957”. The cover though is blue with black titles to spine, and is without the other decoration featured in your pictures. The publisher is J. Cape.
    Your opinion would be valued.
    Thanks
    Steve

    1. Laura Massey

      October 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

      Hi Steve, if you email us some photographs of your copy, including the copyright information and title page, we can let you know more about it.

  4. BMason

    October 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    I have a first edition of The Man with the Golden Gun, with original dust jacket with art by Richard Chopping. The book shows some signs of wear, and has original green and white marbled endpapers, but withiout the embossed gun on the hardcover. However, the most unusual aspec is that it has a red hardcover. I can find no reference to any red covers. Do you know the origin of this book or can you hazard a clue as to its value

  5. mark

    December 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Hi i have a few 1st edition james bond books starting around 1959 they have dustcovers and are in good condition do u know where would value them??

  6. Myra Gallicker

    August 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

    I have a first edition The Spy Who Loved Me. There is no dust jacket. It is in a very good condition otherwise. It is exactly like your images above, with a silver dagger on the boards.
    Does it have any value?
    Thankyou

    1. Pablo Pico

      August 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Hello. The value of a jacketless copy will be significantly lower than that of a copy still in its dust jacket, I am afraid. It will have a modest retail worth, but unlikely to be more than a two-figure amount.

  7. Andrew

    November 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    If my James Bond octopussy has a price label of 16s 80p uk only on the dust jacket is it a. 1st impression

  8. Efrosyni Hobbs

    January 13, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Lawrence, I understand that first editions of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service do not have ISBN numbers as these were not used until the 1960s. Do you happen to know which was the first edition of this book to have an ISBN number(ie year and publisher)? Thank you. Best wishes, Efrosyni Hobbs.

  9. Efrosyni Hobbs

    January 13, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Hi Laura, apologies for previous email, I addressed it to “Laura” but somehow it got changed to Lawrence! Sorry!

  10. Clinton

    March 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I have a first edition Casino Royale but the dust wrapper is missing. How can I get a first edition dust wrapper?

    1. Grace Barham

      August 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Since there are many more first edition copies than there are first edition dust wrappers, you are extremely unlikely to find a spare example of the latter which has not already been united with one of the former. Sorry to disappoint you.

  11. Sam

    September 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Hello Laura, I have a copy of “The Man With the Golden Gun”. Could you tell me what year did they stop embossing the gold gun on the front of the hardcover? My book has a golden gun embossed on the spine of the book. Does that hold any importance?

    1. Grace Barham

      September 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Sam,
      There were only about 150 copies produced (the very first ones) with the golden gun embossed in gilt on the cover. The publisher then realised the production cost was too high, and stop using gold on the front cover, so only the very first copes produced have it. Unfortunately the embossed spine makes little difference!

      Many thanks
      Grace at Peter Harrington

  12. Charlotte

    November 26, 2015 at 8:40 am

    If a 1st edition book was signed by a leading Bond actor recently (30 years after the book was published) would that add or detract from the books value?

    Also, if a 1st edition book was signed by a number of bit part actors from the film would that add of detract from the value?

    Thanks

    1. Grace Barham

      December 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Charlotte,
      Yes it would add somewhat to the value, but nowhere near so much as if the author had signed it. Signatures by actors (bit parts or Bonds) do appear on books and they add a small few hundred perhaps, depending on the title and characters.

  13. Henry

    August 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Found a 1965 man with the golden gun wondering if you could tell me about this edition

    1. Rachel Chanter

      August 23, 2016 at 10:00 am

      Hi Henry,
      The Man with the Golden Gun was indeed first published in 1965. If you’d like one of our specialists to get in touch, please fill out the form – which can be found at the following link: http://www.peterharrington.co.uk/about/contact/form/ – providing some information about the book (i.e. is it in the original dust jacket, does the title page look like that of The Spy who Loved me above etc.)
      Rachel

  14. Zachary

    August 31, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Hi, I have a first edition of Dr No with the dust jacket, and was wondering as to its value?

    1. Rachel Chanter

      August 31, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. For all enquiries about selling a book or the value of an item you own, please fill out the form which can be found here: http://www.peterharrington.co.uk/about/sell-books/

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