Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Connecting 007, Ian Fleming, Rare Books, Indiana University, Printing and the Mind of Man

Collecting a complete set of the James Bond books, authored by Ian Fleming, is a fine pursuit enjoyed by many.  While Hollywood continues to make, remake or spoof the original stories, acquiring the first edition first printing of the Flemming classics will continue to entice many a bibliophile.  Flemming's works are truly collectible and now approaching "rarity" as the supply of fine condition copies disappear.   Before Fleming published the first Bond adventure, Casino Royale in 1953, he was a serious and inspired book collector.

Ian Flemming acquired an amazing collection of books with the majority of his acquisitions occurring in the 1930's.  During his short-lived collecting phase, he was self-described as "the worst stockbroker," a rambunctious bachelor, and a young man with a limited budget for collecting rare books.  His collecting was focused and his focus original.  His book collection, totalling more than 1000 titles, includes his original Bond manuscripts, author proofs and author copies remains complete and is housed at the Lilly Library, Indiana University Bloomington, a rare collection of firsts-first editions of first ideas.

Fleming's book collection was mostly a private treasure.  He considered his collection a hedge against inflation and kept it in trust for his son, Caspar.  In 1963, a year before Fleming died at the young age of 56, he loaned 44 copies from his collection for the now famous IPEX Exhibit, Printing and the Mind of Man where over four hundred of the most important books ever published were assembled and displayed.  Flemings contribution to the exhibit highlighted his original collecting focus.  His collecting interest was ideas.  The books he collected were the books first introducing an idea that "started something."  His collection focused on the ideas that we now consider the foundation of modernity, ideas of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries including works on electricity, evolution, chemistry, physics, transportation, economics, medicine, and politics.  The Lillly Library maintains a website with detailed information on the Fleming collection.  In 1971 the Lilly Library held an exhibition of the Fleming Collection and the catalog from the exhibit is available on line.  Somewhere in my library lives the exhibition catalog for Printing and the Mind of Man where, I can't recall.  Both the Fleming collection and Printing and the Mind of Man are now considered standard reference for any collector interested in the ideas of modernity.

(My motivation for writing about Fleming today is thanks to an article from December 17, 2010 in the Financial Times, For Your Eyes Only, announcing the opening of a luxury hotel in Jamaica at "GoldenEye," Fleming's winter home.  There, each winter, between January and March from 1952 until 1964, Fleming wrote a new Bond novel.)

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