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Rare Ian Fleming inscribed first editions up for auction this month

01-Oct-2009 • Collecting

A first edition signed and inscribed copy of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, the book that introduced the world to its favorite secret agent, the one and only James Bond, headlines Heritage Auctions' Rare Books auction, Oct. 16-17. The fact that the copy is signed by the renowned writer is reason enough to make it a desirable edition, but how Fleming tantalizingly inscribed the book may well make it the ultimate Bond collectible of them all:

"To M," Fleming wrote, alluding to the enigmatic head of the British Secret Service. "These pages from my memoirs! Ian."

It's speculated by Bond experts that there are two possible sources behind Fleming's inspiration for M, his soft-spoken spymaster. The first likely candidate is Maxwell Knight, a popular 1950s radio and television naturalist who led a secret existence as an MI5 spy runner. The second is thought to be Admiral John Godfrey, under whom Fleming served during World War II.

Heritage Auctions has estimated the book at $40,000+.

"We would normally be thrilled to have even one signed Ian Fleming first edition Bond book in any auction," said James Gannon, Director of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions, "but here we have not only the first Bond book signed and inscribed, but also the second, Live and Let Die (estimate: $25,000+), the fifth, From Russia With Love (estimate: $22,000+), the seventh and ninth, Goldfinger (estimate: $14,000+) and Thunderball ($12,000+), and the eleventh, On Her Majesty's Secret Service ($10,000+)- every one of them first editions and every one of them signed by Fleming."

Ian Fleming had the kind of success that most any writer in the world would die for, though it didn't come easy to him. Born into a wealthy, respected British family, he struggled early on to distinguish himself, never successfully evading the shadow of his more successful father and older brother as he tried his hand at banking and journalism. It was during the war that Fleming found what was to become his passion in Naval Intelligence, the source for all his creativity, wealth and his lasting literary legacy to the world.

Fleming discovered a gift for creative thinking within the structured environment of intelligence work. His ability to plot ingenious intelligence operations became known as the "Fleming flair" within the military. During the final year of the war, Fleming was sent to Jamaica for a naval conference, where he fell in love with the locale and where he would return after the war to build his retreat, Goldeneye. Writing from this exotic location and drawing on his military experiences, he would create James Bond and return yearly to write all of the Bond novels.

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