Ian Fleming books, correspondence thrill bidders in April 8 auction

NEW YORK — On April 8, Swann Galleries auctioned a portion of the private library of well-known mystery fiction specialist and bookseller Otto Penzler. Among the top lots in the sale of the Otto Penzler collection of British espionage and thriller fiction were several rare editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, as well as an archive of correspondence between the author and the artist who designed many of his iconic dust jackets.

Christine von der Linn, Swann’s 19th and 20th century literature specialist, said, “The Flemings took off as expected, but no one anticipated the runaway success of Moonraker and the archive of Fleming letters. The fame and renown of Penzler and his collection brought in crowds from both sides of the globe, most of whom were keen collectors. In fact, the top nine lots were purchased not by dealers, but by tenacious book collectors.”

The archive of letters between Fleming, Richard Chopping, and others involved in the production of nine of the 007 covers between 1957 and 1966 — from From Russia, with Love, through Octopussy and The Living Daylights — touch on details about the jacket art, praise for Chopping’s work, payment information, copyright issues, and other related topics. The lot sold for $57,600. All prices listed include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Setting a record for a signed copy was a first edition of Moonraker, inscribed and signed by the author in the year of publication to Fleming collector Eileen M. Cond: “Who cannot be easily shocked! from Ian Fleming – 1955,” London, which brought $50,400. A first limited edition of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, number 146 of 250 signed copies, London, 1963, also set a record at $12,000.

An unsigned first edition, first issue of Casino Royale, the book that introduced James Bond, London, 1953, brought an impressive $33,600; while other Bond titles such as The Man with the Golden Gun, Diamonds are Forever, and Dr. No also performed well.

A first edition of Eric Ambler’s Cause for Alarm, London, 1938, one of the author’s rarest works, in the scarce dust jacket, sold for a record $8,400 — the book had been signed and inscribed “with love” by Ambler to Otto Penzler in 1989.

Also bringing record prices were first editions of Geoffrey Household’s manhunt novel Rogue Male, in the extremely hard to find dust jacket, London, 1939, $6,240, and Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train, London, 1932, later renamed The Orient Express when it was published in the U.S., $5,280.

Books of note by John Le Carré included his first novel, Call for the Dead, first edition, London, 1961, $8,400; a bright copy of the first English edition of his second book, A Murder of Quality, London, 1962, $7,200; and a signed first edition of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, London, 1963, $1,920.

Rounding out the sale were works by John Gardner, such as an original typescript of License Renewed, London, 1980, $3,600, as well as titles by Len Deighton, Frederick Forsyth, William Le Queux and Dennis Wheatley.

For complete results, an illustrated auction catalog with prices realized (on request) is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.

Photos courtesy of Swann Galleries.

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