The art of a first edition dust jacket is magical.
Twenty, fifty, even one hundred years removed from the date on which the book was first published, the dust jacket design reveals the book as it was first pulled off the shelves and read. It is how the book appeared, pristine, before it gained status as a classic or a flop, before it became banned or revolutionary or forgotten. It is hope and expectation. It is beautiful.
In this series I’m giving you a tour of the original dust jackets of famous authors. This week: Ian Fleming’s James Bond books.
Fleming created the design of the first Bond novel. Artist Ken Lewis executed the idea, which originally involved diamonds rather than hearts.
Ken Lewis once again executed Fleming’s design, although a striking element has changed. In the original design, the jacket was supposed to have a blue background. Due to technical problems of the color printing with blue and yellow, it was switched to the now iconic magenta.
The last jacket executed by Ken Lewis, although as usual the design came from Fleming. According to him, the jacket “contains the red, yellow and black, which experts have told me are the most striking combination for poster purposes, so it should show up well on the bookstalls.”
Unhappy with Lewis’ work, Fleming requested a different designer for the fourth Bond book. Working first with Adolf Hallman, Fleming eventually developed this design with Pat Marriott. The diamond pictured is based on a real gem called “Afghanistan.”
The first dust jacket designed by Richard Chopping, whom most see as the Bond artist today. It’s also often considered his best.
Pat Marriott was hired once again for this jacket. Fleming initially suggested Bond girl Honeychile appear in a guise referencing Venus. The idea was scrapped but the woman on the jacket remained.
Chopping has returned, and for good. He believed this was his best Bond jacket.
Fleming asked Chopping for a grey iris, noting “this is James Bond’s.” It’s the only original jacket that depicts any part of Bond.
Chopping’s services were much in demand, leading him to hesitate taking on another project in Thunderball. Fleming wrote him, “Please do this Dickie as it would be a really wonderful subject for your macabre vein.”
After critics panned this book, Fleming asked that it not be published again in his lifetime.
The hands depicted here are Chopping’s own.
The last novel completed entirely by Fleming before his death.
Fleming died before completing the final revision of this novel, leaving Chopping for the first time without input for the design.
For the last of Fleming’s Bond books Chopping received such a large payment that the New Yorker called him “the highest paid book-jacket designer in the world.”
Sources and Further Reading
- The descriptions for each jacket were taken from Jon Gilbert’s rigorous and authoritative bibliography, Ian Fleming: The Bibliography (2012).
- Search “Ian Fleming” on the Bauman Rare Books website for more details on available first editions at the company where I work.