The passion begins
One wet afternoon in Cromer, Norfolk, circa 1965, n-year-old James Pickard and
his mum went to the Regal Cinema to see a
double bill; Dr No and From Russia with Love. James was hooked and set about
devouring all the Bond books, over and over again.
Fast-forward to 1982 and James is reading an article on rare books in The Times.
Ian Fleming is mentioned and the report suggests that some people are willing to
pay as much as £500 for a first edition of Casino Royale.
A few months, several upgrades, and many phone calls later, James is the owner
of a very fine copy of Casino Royale, for which he has paid £1,200. His friends
and family hope he hasn't been silly. So does he. It took him another two years
to buy all 14 first editions and he has been upgrading his collection ever since
- buying books in better and better condition and selling his less-than-perfect
As a result, James connected with almost everyone who was collecting or dealing
in Bond books. He learned huge amounts about the subject and soon became an
acknowledged expert all over the world.
Not so dusty
The dust jackets tell many a tale. When all the first editions are lined up, you
can see three distinct hands at work on the designs.
The first three were by a colleague of Fleming's named Ken Lewis, who worked
just down the hall at Kemsley Newspapers, owners of the Sunday Times. Fleming
was Manager of Foreign News and Ken was a jobbing artist who produced the
graphics, maps and diagrams that were needed to illustrate the stories.
Ken himself explained the drill to James a few years ago: Fleming would present
him with a quick sketch of what he wanted, confessing that it was actually his
nephew's work. Ken would then improve and interpret the ideas and create a piece
For Casino Royale, Fleming drew two rows of diamonds, but Ken thought that
hearts would be better. Hearts trumped diamonds in the final version. One of
James's copies of Live and Let Die bears the inscription: "To Kenneth Lewis, my
favourite artist! From the author."
James collects original dust-jacket artwork and has three pieces that he's
confident no one else on earth can claim. Ken Lewis's original drawings for the
covers of Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker are long since lost, but
James commissioned Ken to do them again. You can see one of them hanging on the
wall behind James - it's a Ken Lewis original, but it's not the original.
So you fancy a bit of book collecting?
Here are a few pointers from a man who ought to know:
• Collect first editions of books that you enjoy - it's more interesting and
you'll be more likely to learn all about them.
• Buy the best condition you can afford. The prices quoted here are for fine -
• condition books that are unmarked, untouched, unfaded and usually unread.
Slightly scruffier editions are far less valuable and some aren't worth
collecting at all.
• Keep your collection upright, behind glass and out of the sun.
• If you fancy a flutter, keep an eye out for new authors who have just signed
film or TV deals. A copy of the first Harry Potter book in fine condition is
already worth thousands of pounds.
• Or, if you'd rather not take the risk of getting it wrong, ask an experienced
collector or dealer, like James, to put a collection together for you.
Cherchez la femme
Most people know that Ian Fleming was a Bond-like character in real life, with a
taste for fast cars and expensive women (or was it the other way round?). James
once bought a book from the estate of a woman whose effect on Fleming was quite
clear judging by the inscription: "To x, despite who's [sic] loving care this
book was written. Love Ian xx."
Who was she? Sorry, but we'd rather that remained a mystery. According to James
Pickard, it's only one of many that surround the writer who created the world's
most famous spy.
See Also James Bond First Editions for Investment and James Rymer Article
© Royal Mail Group. Written By Steve Yelland