Ian Fleming Feed

"Birds of the West Indies" for Sale

Bond. BOTWI Cover 1936  7.5 in
The market for early editions of Birds of the West Indies continues to be quite bullish.

A friend recently pointed out a couple of first editions of James Bond's seminal 1936 Birds of the West Indies are for sale. The price has certainly gone up since its debut, when it sold for $4.50.

Here's one for $16,000.


Here's another for $12,500.


Neither had a dust jacket, which is a nice feature to have when you're shelling out that kind of dough, but the main selling point is that they are signed first editions.

A couple of years ago, I could have bought one for $4,000, but I thought that was a bit steep. Wrong.

I also found an unsigned 1947 edition on eBay, incorrectly billed as  Field Guide of Birds in the West Indies. The blurb for the book states that this was the edition of the book that Fleming used to swipe Bond's name from the cover, but that is most likely incorrect. 

While researching The Real James Bond, I came across an interview with Bond in which he said that when he visited Fleming at Goldeneye, Fleming showed him the 1936 edition.

The 1947 edition is still a great book, and the first edition that was streamlined enough to be useful in the field.

A few British sellers were offering the same copy for $1,900.

No mention of a dustjacket for that copy either.


1947 field guide up for auction






YouTube Video of TNC Webinar

Had a great time talking about Jim Bond and Caribbean conservation last week -- with a lot about coral reefs, sandy beaches and the fish that Bond collected for science.

The webinar, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy on New Jersey and Montclair Film, also featured Marci Eggers, TNC's deputy director for the Caribbean.


James Bond, Marine Biologist

Octopussy dust jacket ChoppingWhen ornithologist Jim Bond went on expeditions to the West Indies for the Academy of Natural Sciences in the 1920s and early 1930s, he collected many species of fish.  Several of those species later turned up in an Ian Fleming fleming.

Bond even collected a relative of the scorpionfish that graces the cover of the first edition of Octopussy and the Living Daylights.

With the help of two current Academy of Natural Science naturalists -- Mark Sabaj Perez and Paul Callomon, I was able to unlock the secrets of that dustjacket for an article I wrote for literary007.com.

To the casual observer, the items on the cover are a fish and a conch shell. To the trained eye, they are so much more.

You can read my article here.

A big thank you to everyone at the Academy of Natural Sciences (now affiliated with Drexel University) for their help with the article -- and especially my book about Bond.

It was exactly one year ago today that the Academy hosted the big launch event for The Real James Bond -- just before the world went into COVID-19 lockdown.

Here's to better days ahead.

P.S. I am told that in my article, I erroneously described an octopus' appendages as tentacles. They are called arms.  In my defense, Ian Fleming called them tentacles as well,  so I am in good company.

Bond, Fleming and Kling-klings

Kling-Kling Bird at GoldenEye
One of my favorite birds in Jamaica is the  Kling-Kling, a.k.a the Greater Antillean Grackle or Jamaican Grackle. I saw these mischievous birds both times I visited GoldenEye, the resort created from Ian Fleming's winter residence in Oracabessa.

The first time, one was rearranging the napkins at the waterside bistro (above).

Continue reading "Bond, Fleming and Kling-klings" »

Fleming's Copy of 'Birds of the West Indies'

Bond. BOTWI Cover 1936 7.5 in (1)When Ian Fleming stole the real James Bond's name from the cover (or title page) of Birds of the West Indies in early 1952, which edition was he looking at, the 1936 first edition or the 1947 second edition?

It's a subject of debate, with many Fleming experts siding with the 1947 edition. At this point, there's likely no definitive answer,  just theories.

But according to the noted ornithologist himself, the copy in question was the original 1936 edition, as he recounted to  Philadelphia Bulletin columnist Pete Martin in an interview published in October 1964.

Bond and his wife Mary had visited Goldeneye on Feb. 5 that year,  and (sadly) Fleming had died on Aug. 12.

Bond said that Fleming had (at least) two editions of Birds of the West Indies at his home in Jamaica. 

First, Bond said that Fleming "had the first edition -- the one that Bond quote ofn Fleming's 1936 editioncame out in 1936." [Pictured here].

Bond also said: "When we saw [Fleming], he had by then bought the latest edition of Birds of the West Indies.

In a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Fleming that was filmed the day that the real James Bond visited, Fleming's copy of Birds of the West Indies from the early 1960s is shown. (See below.)

My new illustrated biography, The Real James Bond, devotes an entire chapter to the day that Bond and Fleming met, and another chapter on the many versions of Birds of the West Indies that were published over the years.

One big question regarding that day remains: Whatever happened to Fleming's 1936 edition of Birds of the West Indies?

It is not in the Lilly Library's archive of Fleming's books at Indiana University. (I checked.)

You can read about James Bond's licenses to kill here.

You can read more about the day Fleming and Bond met here.

CBC BotWI Fleming interview

James Bond's Licenses to Kill

JB collecting permits FLP IMG_0378
When James Bond visited the West Indies, he needed island governments' permission to collect birds for science. 

The Free Library of Philadelphia's Rare Book Department has a fascinating collection of Bond's permits (including the ones pictured above).

They are part of the library's Mary Wickham Bond archive, and they will be on display when I present my "Real James Bond" talk there. 

My talk, part of the library's "Hands-on History" series, had been scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, but will be rescheduled, likely for later this year. (Fingers crossed.)

The Free Library's Rare Book Department is an incredible place, and I can't wait to give my talk there.

Below, James Bond's license to kill in Jamaica in December 1949. Ian Fleming began writing Casino Royale there in early 1952.


The Wall Street Journal Review

‘The Real James Bond’ Review:
The Birder and the Spy

The ornithologist James Bond—like the secret agent who shares his name—was handy with firearms and able to work around officialdom.

James Bond with Eskimo Curlew (1)Photo: Free Library of Philadelphia, Rare Book Department

The ornithologist James Bond.

By Dominic Green

April 3, 2020 James Bond found the man who stole his identity at his island lair. On February 5, 1964, he went in for the kill. “I don’t read your books,” Bond told Ian Fleming. “My wife reads them all, but I never do.” Fleming had been expecting Mr. Bond—for 12 years, since the day when, searching for a blunt and masculine name for his newly invented fictional secret agent, the author had plucked Bond’s name from the spine of a volume called “Birds of the West Indies.”

As in the Bond novels, the villain (“short-sleeved black guayabera shirt, matching slacks, and open-toed sandals”) was confronted by Bond (in “a loud patterned shirt that shouted ‘tourist’ ”). Fleming showed Bond around his secluded lair, Goldeneye, then confessed everything. After a swim, Bond, accompanied on this mission by his wife, Mary, sat down to lunch with Fleming and his wife, Ann. Before the Bonds left, Fleming inscribed a copy of his new novel, “You Only Live Twice”: “To the real James Bond from the thief of his identity.”

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 12.12.17 PM“They couldn’t have been nicer about my theft of the family name,” Fleming reported. “They said it helped them get through customs.” It is not known whether Fleming said “Goodbye, Mr. Bond,” but he never saw Bond again. Six months later, Fleming died from a heart attack. His last words in the ambulance: “I am sorry to trouble you chaps.”

In the slim and elegant biography “The Real James Bond,” Jim Wright spills the secrets of Jim Bond (1900-89), the ornithologist from Philadelphia who had more than a name in common with his fictional double. Both Bonds were sons of privilege whose early lives were ruined by tragedy. Jim grew up on the Main Line, the child of stockbroker Francis Bond and his wife, Margaret Tyson, who was cousin to John Singer Sargent and granddaughter of John A. Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. James Bond lost his parents in a mountain-climbing accident; Jim Bond’s sister died in childhood, his mother died young and his father turned to drink. James was expelled from Eton; Jim, like Winston Churchill, was sent to Eton’s rival, Harrow, in 1913. At Trinity College, Cambridge, Jim “honed his marksmanship” in the Pitt Club, an “exclusive dining club and hunting group” whose future members would include the spies Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess.

Continue reading "The Wall Street Journal Review" »

When Bond Met Fleming: Feb. 5, 1964

On Feb. 5  56 years ago, James and Mary Bond left their room at the Mona Hotel (once the Mona Great House) outside Kingston in Jamaica and drove over the Blue Mountains to drop in unexpectedly -- but not uninvited -- at GoldeBond meets Fleming PFL DSCN9866-001neye, the winter home of Ian Fleming.

Things were a bit tense at first, as Fleming feared that Bond was going to try to sue him for identity theft. Fleming even challenged Bond about a bird identification to see if Bond was for real.

Bond passed, and they soon got along famously.

Although much has been written about that day, one mystery remains.

I write about the meeting -- and the mystery --  in "The Real James Bond," published by Schiffer Books.

The top photo, of the Fleming Villa at GoldenEye, is courtesy of Island Outpost.

The photo above right, the only known image of their meeting, was taken by Mary Bond and is used here courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The photo below, of the Mona Hotel, was also taken by Mary Bond and is used here courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia as well.

Mona Great House DSCN2496 (1)

'Real James Bond': 1st Extensive Interview

James Bond Radio -- InterviewBack in August, when Schiffer Books announced a publication date for "The Real James Bond," writer Matthew Chernov contacted me immediately about an interview.

I said, "Sure -- but closer to when the book arrives."

Well, time flies, and here we are.

This online interview is the first in-depth look at the book, and hopefully worth waiting for.

You can read it here.

The book arrives in four weeks -- on Friday, Feb. 28. You can order a copy from Schiffer now by clicking the book's dustjacket in the top right-hand corner.

(The photo of me is by Kevin Watson. Thanks, Kevin!)

'Real James Bond' in Schiffer's Spring Catalog

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 3.21.13 PM"The Real James Bond" is front and center in Schiffer Books' Spring 2020 catalog.

You can read the page devoted to the book here.

Among the photos featured on the page is a photo of a Hoatzin by a Watson (ace photographer Kevin Watson, that is.)  On James Bond's first expedition to South America, the Hoatzin was one of his target birds. You can read more in the book.

Also pictured: A photo of the real James Bond with Ian Fleming at Goldeneye in 2020. More about that photo is a future post.

The real Bond sought a Hoatzin on his first expedition to Latin America 95 years ago.

You can order the book in advance of the Feb. 28 publication date here.