On Her Majesty's Secret Service.London: Jonathan Cape, 1963 Stock Code: 138032
Presentation copy to the artistFirst edition, signed limited issue, presentation copy from Ian Fleming to the artist Charles Amherst Villiers (1900-1992), whose portrait of Fleming is reproduced as the colour frontispiece to this edition; the copy is unnumbered, marked "presentation", signed by Fleming, and has Villiers's book label. It was not Fleming's habit to further inscribe presentation copies of this edition; only one copy is known with a specific presentation inscription.
Villiers and Fleming were old friends. Fleming had first known him in the 1930s when Villiers was designing the superchargers for Tim Birkin's legendary "Blower Bentleys". Villiers had begun his unorthodox career in design engineering by souping up Brescia Bugattis, and went on to develop superchargers for Bentley and Rolls Royce. He also worked on Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird car, powered by a 24 litre Napier Lion aero-engine, which Campbell used in his successful attempt on the land speed record at Daytona Beach in 1927.
Ian Fleming equipped James Bond with an Amherst Villiers-supercharged Blower Bentley as his first car. In Casino Royale, Bond is specified as driving a battleship grey Bentley 1930 4 litre convertible coupé, with French Marchal headlamps and an Amherst Villiers supercharger. In the book, the car is mentioned as being a hobby that Bond enjoys working on. This model featured in three of the 007 novels, Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and Moonraker, until it was destroyed in a car chase in the latter book, to be replaced by a later model Bentley.
Villiers spent the post-war years in the United States, working on rocket-powered spacecraft and satellite communications. He returned to England in the 1960s to resume his work on the technical enhancement of motor car engines, but became passionately devoted to portrait painting, having studied under Annigoni. His subjects included Graham Hill, Cardinal Spellman, and Pope John Paul II.
It was in 1962 that "Fleming asked Villiers if he would care to paint his portrait. As it grew it began to show a sad face, and Villiers suggested that perhaps he should make the set of the mouth a shade happier. 'No', said Fleming. 'Leave it as it is'" (John Pearson, The Life of Ian Fleming). Fleming paid Villiers 500 for the portrait and had it reproduced as the frontispiece for his only signed limited edition.
Villiers also, at Fleming's urgent and repeated request, provided the design for the flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1964). The three published books were illustrated by John Burningham after Villiers's original designs (the latter were sold, together with the original typescripts, at Sotheby's, 12 Dec 2002, lot 328).
Together with a signed letter of provenance from Charles's daughter Janie Villiers, and a facsimile of a brochure for the Amherst Villiers superchargers.
Octavo. Original quarter vellum with black cloth sides, spine lettered in gilt, ski track decoration to front cover in white, top edge gilt. Together with letter and facsimile brochure.
Frontispiece portrait of Ian Fleming.
Very light sunning to spine, else a near-fine copy, square, tight, and clean.
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