Years before James Bond hit the silver screen, fans of 007 saw their hero on the cover of Pan paperbacks with cover art by Sam Peffer...

The Art Of Sam Peffer
21st October 2007

When Pan first started publishing the James Bond adventures by Ian Fleming in paperback in the mid-1950s, the book covers were painted in the style of American novels of the day. The first, "Casino Royale", featured a youthful 007 modelled after Richard Conte. Artist Josh Kirby, who later went on to create cover for Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series, painted the first covers for "Moonraker", "Live And Let Die" and "Diamonds Are Forver" in successive years from 1956.

Sam Peffer, who had just signed to Pan, was assigned the mission of creating their James Bond covers from 1957 to 1962. Unlike the previous Pan paperbacks, Peffer gave 007 a consistant look throughout his series, basing the appearence of Bond on model Dick Orme.

Above Left: 2nd to 6th edition (1959 to 1961)
Above Right: 7th to 11th edition (1961 to 1963)

"Peff", as he signed his covers, read each of the novels to identify key scenes which would be appropriate for an exciting cover. He was given free reign to decide on an initial selection, which would then be roughed out for approval by the Pan art editors. The key ingredients were the hero (Bond) and heroine (Bond Girl) and something relevant to the plot - but without giving it away.

One of the restrictions placed upon Peffer was not to depict any blood or physical violence on the covers. Some of the initial choices had to be replaced because with the violence removed, the scenario no longer made sense.

Above: 1st to 3rd editions (1960 to 1961)
Above Right: 4th to 14th editions (1961 to 1965)

It was around this time that fellow artist John McLusky was also in the process of giving a face to James Bond, this time for the comic strip adaptation of "Casino Royale" in the Daily Express. A little over a year since Peffer created his first Bond cover, McLusky's inital visualisation of the character was quite different, but would develop some similarities over later years.

Peffer owned many of the props seen in his covers, but relied on Maurice Angel, Bermanns, and Lathams to supply a lot of the theatrical costumes. He used his own Army and Navy uniforms when required, but never had one from the Airforce.

To assist his painting, Peffer hired models to pose for the design he had in mind. Model fees at that time were two guineas an hour, so Peffer often modelled himself or his wife Kitty.

When it came to action scenes, Peffer drafted in his brother-in-law, who was a top stuntman who stood in for the likes of Robert Shaw and Errol Flynn.

Above: Peffer's wife Kitty models for the 1958 Pan paperback "The Case of the Negligent Nymph"

Some of the later re-issued covers featured Peff's original artwork with a band along the bottom of the cover featuring a small retouched photograph to represent James Bond. The face was actually that of Ralph Vernon-Hunt, then director of Pan Books. The early Pan covers also featured a 007 logo that was also used on the UK quad posters for "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love".


Above: 5th edition (1961)
Left: 10th edition (1963)

Notice the error on the 10th edition where the yellow bar has been pasted over the original red bar from the 5th edition. The top of Bond's head is still visible.

The end of Peffer's run coincided with Sean Connery launching the film series with "Dr No" in 1962, when Pan opted for film tie-in covers. At the height of Bondmania, the Pan paperback editions shifted over one million copies each year between 1962 and 1967.

In the following decades, Glidrose (now Ian Fleming Publications) set policy that dictated James Bond would not be seen on any book jacket except the photographic covers for film tie-ins, even including the latest series of pulp-style covers by artist Richie Fahey. Sam Peffer's covers remain an iconic contribution to the Bond canon, and are now highly collectible items.

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