As I was flicking through Previous Convictions, Cyril Connelly's collection of essays and short articles, to find his Bond parody, 'Bond strikes camp', I came across a piece about collecting modern first editions. It got me thinking. What would be my advice for collecting James Bond novels and books about Bond?
I have well over 300 items in my Bond library, not including magazines or articles from newspapers. The library includes first edition novels, books about the film series, film tie-ins and annuals, academic tomes and criticism, parodies, graphic novels, biographies, and Fleming-related material.
I've amassed the library slowly. It grew out of a uniform set of paperback Flemings, published by Panther/Granada, which were the ones that happened to be in the shops when I started reading Bond. Initially, I wasn't interested in first editions, but I did start to buy books about Bond, and subsequent purchases tended to be devoted to building up that aspect of my library in my pursuit of Bondian knowledge. My first Fleming first edition was Goldfinger, bought from a secondhand bookshop near Inverness. It had no cover and was rather battered, but knowing that first editions were rarely seen, I was thrilled by the find. I was hooked, and over time, I acquired more first editions, including the prize of Casino Royale (admittedly a library edition). Now, I am something of a completist, and will buy any Bond-related book in order to build a very good Bond library.
My tips for collecting Bond-related books are as follows. If you have a limited budget, concentrate on one or two aspects, such as paperbacks and their various editions and covers, or graphic novels. Expand your collection when funds allow.
If you're buying secondhand books, buy the best copies you can afford. Trade up when you have the chance. The battered Goldfinger was all I could afford at the time, but later I had some money, and was able to buy a better-quality first edition with dustjacket.
Look for first editions, whether you're buying Fleming novels, graphic novels or books about the Bond phenomenon. New books will usually be first editions, of course, but take care you have the first printing. Popular books, like the latest Young Bond, quickly went to a second and third printing, even though the book was still 'just out'.
When you're buying new books, have a look for signed copies, or watch out for special author-signing events. There is some debate about whether personlised dedications made by the author detract from the value of the book; some collectors look for the author's signature only, and avoid any that say, 'To Edward, all the best, Raymond', or similar. I don't worry about this. I always ask for a dedication (it's so cold and calculating otherwise), and I'm happy buy books with such dedications in them.
Shop around. Ebay doesn't always have the bargains, and I always compare prices at Amazon marketplace and Abebooks. But with the success of online auction sites, the days of finding a first edition Fleming at jumble sales or charity shops are long gone. And if a first edition is donated to a charity shop, it rarely gets as far as the shelves, as the staff have already put it into auction. Not that it stops me from wandering hopefully into the shops just to check.