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How to spot 'Frankenstein' first editions (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 5

We’re told not to judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to Ian Fleming first editions, that’s exactly what’s needed to avoid ending up with a 'Frankenstein' book:



If there’s one thing Ian Fleming collectors covet above all else, it’s completeness.


Ian Fleming first editions minus their jackets (even ultra rare ones, like Casino Royale), garner significantly less interest than those that are fully dressed. A book without its jacket really is quite naked.


The pursuit of a good jacket, however, can create certain - let's just calls it - behaviours that can have undesirable consequences. Specifically, I'm talking about the practice of 'jacket swapping'.


It's obvious that books with really nice condition jackets are what people want most of all. A great condition jacket will boost visual appeal and sing from a bookshelf. But in compiling a collection of books that are a close as can be to 'fine' (see previous blog on book grading), it's not uncommon for really serious bibliophiles to buy additional books of the same title purely because it might have a less-creased, less-torn, or less-faded jacket. They then 'swap' that nicer jacket onto their existing (currently less good jacketed book), to arrive at a better all-round book.


Generally speaking, this activity is deemed acceptable (or at least overlooked), because most collectors will only want to swap like-for-like jackets - that is, jackets that are correct to that particular impression of book.


However, an unforeseen problem that swapping jackets for improvements creates, is the need for collectors be on their guard when looking at purchasing first editions.


This is because (and more than you might think), the market is awash with Fleming firsts that claim to be complete – that is comprising a first impression book with matching jacket – and indeed look complete - but to a more trained eye they are most definitely not.


They're actually first editions books that have later jackets on, masquerading a first editions.


These books are what’s known as ‘Frankenstein’ books; those that at some point in time, innocently or otherwise, have had later jackets paired with them.


Many sellers frequently fail to notice this, meaning they crop up for sale all too often. This is bad news if buyers later discover their book was not what it was claimed to be.

 

Bad books in the system


It's hard to know exactly why so many 'Frankenstein’ books exist. Perhaps, in the midst of time, a previous owner did exactly what we described earlier, and found a different book with a better jacket, and combined the two.


Whatever the reason though, I see Flemings commonly up for sale in shops or on eBay (and other platforms), that are described as complete first editions but are not.


Sometimes it will be through genuine error. Often the trade simply re-markets books that they themselves bought from a seller who genuinely thought that what they had were first editions. Generalist sellers either don't know what to look for, or believe what they're told from the people they bought them from.


But with the value of first edition Fleming titles rocketing, unscrupulous sellers sadly exist too. These are people who will deliberately try to deceive, by taking a jacketless first impression book, and adding a better (later), jacket in the hope that no-one notices, to create what looks like a bona-fide complete first impression book.


These sellers are fraudulent and must be avoided at all costs.

 

So how can you spot real Ian Fleming firsts from their 'Frankenstein' imitations?

 

In this, the first part of a two-part series, we outline some general rules of thumb that collectors should take a mental note of, as well as some of the warning signs that could also alert them to a later jacket trying to impersonate a first.


Next week, in part two, we will then outline some of the more specific details that relate to particular titles of James Bond first editions.

 

In general:

 

If presented with a book claiming to be an Ian Fleming first edition, there are several quick checks that can you determine if a jacket is the correct first impression jacket that belongs to that first impression book:

 

The printed price on the front/back flaps: 


Although it’s not always the case, a good rule of thumb is that later edition jackets (which can appear very similar in all other regards), tend to have a higher price on the front inside flap than the original first impression jacket.




So, as a very minimum, look for a price of 10s 6d on Casino Royale, Live and Let Die and Moonraker. Diamonds are Forever is priced at 12 6d, while From Russia With Love and Dr No are each 13s 6d. First impressions of Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, and The Spy Who Loved Me are priced at 15s, while On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice are 16s. The Man With The Golden Gun was 18s, while the slim-line Octopussy should say 10s 6d (although see next week's blog for more on this).


There is one other feature to take note of though.


Publisher Jonathan Cape habitually printed more jackets than were actually used per impression-run. So, instead of wasting them, it would often re-use them for later impression books but place a price sticker on the flap to cover the original (cheaper) price.

A later price sticker has been removed


Books of Thunderball (see picture above), commonly crop up featuring re-priced jackets - usually with a more expensively priced sticker covering the original price. In other cases, the price was clipped off, and a new price was overprinted next to it (as can also sometimes be seen on later impression Dr No jackets and For Your Eyes Only).


This can create something of a minefield, as technically these re-priced jackets could be first impression jacket stock. But it’s worth remembering that even though they formed part of an earlier print order, these surplus jackets were intended for later impression books, so it’s best to steer clear of them.


As the above Thunderball shows, it's worth looking out for signs of the over-priced sticker having been removed (normally a sticker 'shadow' remains). This would definitely suggest it’s a later jacket trying to be passed off as a first impression one.


Previous Books listed:


From the 4th book (Diamonds are Forever), onward, some of the back flaps refer to earlier books in the series.


For instance On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963), lists all the books up to and including 1962’s The Spy Who Loved Me (see left - this is a correct first impression jacket).


So, be wary of first impressions that have jackets that carry the next book in the series – such as an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service listing the following year’s You Only Live Twice.


This definitely wouldn't be the correct jacket.


This spot can sometimes be the only difference between some first and later edition jackets. It sounds a simple enough check, but it can be missed/forgotten if everything else looks good at first glance.

 

Learning which back flaps are blank: 


Several Flemings have either completely blank back flaps, or blank flaps with just the cover artists’ credit. It’s well worth learning these (also see next week's blog), as the second impression (or later) versions of these jackets can look the exactly same save for the back flaps listing previous books (and so can appear like a first impression jacket still).


First impression jackets with blank back flaps or blank flaps with the artist’s credit are: Casino Royale, Live & Let Die, Moonraker, From Russia With Love, Dr No and The Spy Who Loved Me (see picture below of The Spy Who Loved Me's correct 1st impression jacket):



Jonathan Cape logo:


The spine of every Fleming should carry the Jonathan Cape ‘Greek urn’ logo on spine. Some Book Club editions (such as Diamonds are Forever. Dr No and From Russia With Love), have the same dust jacket artwork, but the only obvious difference is that they do not feature the logo. It means a Book Club jacket over a Cape book could be missed at first glance, if it looks right in all other respects. Also, if you have a The Spy Who Loved Me, check it doesn’t say ‘Viking’ on the spine (which is a US publisher). This DJ is the same as the UK edition in virtually all respects, but this is the American first edition jacket. The jacket on the US hardback first edition of From Russia With Love has the same illustration, but will say Macmillan on the spine.

 

Warning signs:


Below are signs that don't necessary tell you if a jacket isn't correct, but could be a warning sign that it isn't:

 

Is it price-clipped?


It’s common to find Ian Fleming jackets with their prices clipped – mainly because books are bought as gifts.


But a clipped jacket can sometimes be the first clue that a later jacket has been swapped-on to masquerade as a first.

Is this a first impression Thunderball jacket?

Now it's difficult to tell for sure.


How? Because when some later impression jackets are identical in every aspect apart from its price – so clipping it off it is the easiest way for it to be passed off as a first impression jacket.


For instance, the 4th impression The Spy Who Loved Me jacket is exactly the same as a first impression one – the only difference being that the price is 16s rather than the original 15s.


Clip this off though and it’s virtually impossible for someone to argue it isn’t a first. In the same vein one rarely sees second impressions of From Russia With Love complete with their jackets because a second impression jacket is identical to a first (even the price is the same). As a result many have been put onto first impression book-only copies to complete the book (and maximise price).


If you see as listing that only shows a partial image of the cover (ie it omits the priced part), or doesn't show a picture with the price on the front flap at all, to me this is a huge red flag. It suggests the seller has something to hide.

 

Condition: 


A near-fine jacket could be just that – a very good jacket. But it can also be a sign that a later impression (newer, and otherwise identical one) has been swapped on.


Second and third impression jackets of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service The Man With the Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice are exactly the same, making it tempting for newer ones to be swapped on to first edition books.


It’s also worth watching out for facsimile jackets. Some are now not marked as such, and can be hard to spot under reflective protective Brodart sleeves. These can often only be identified by the reverse, where the newer paper stock can be judged.


Finally, in the 1980s a first edition library (or FEL) set was produced – comprising exact replicas of first edition Cape jackets. Examples of these jackets have been spotted over original Cape books before. A discreet FEL marking is present on the inside flap, but again, it can be missed.

 

Wear and tear that 'matches'

 

If the jacket is original to the book, then any minor bumps and dents and other damage a jacket has sustained should correspond to the boards below. So look for jackets that seem like they ‘belong’ to the book underneath – ie showing identical wear and tear.


If the wear 'doesn’t match', it may indicate a later (non-first) jacket is attempting to be a first impression one. Of course, it could well be that a better (and correct) first impression jacket has simply been put on first impression book with less good boards.


But to me, this pairing of 'excellent jacket' on 'OK book' will look 'wrong' and I would advise against buying such a book. A perfect jacket over a tatty book, or one with a sun-tanned page block or spotting will look incongruous, because the jacket and book (despite both being first impressions), simply don't 'match'. The book wouldn't naturally age/present like this.


Next week...


Above are general tips that can be applied across all of the James Bond books.


But are there specific jacket points to look out for on James Bond first edition jackets?


Yes, there most certainly are...


Be sure to come back for Part 2...



We realise that jackets can sometimes be a minefield.


As our guarantee though, here at jamesbondfirsteditions.co.uk, we will assiduously verify and check each and every book to make sure that when we say it's a first impression book and jacket - it really is.


We cross reference all our stock against the industry-standard, and extremely thorough Jon Gilbert bibliography, and use our own extensive experience to guarantee that every book listed here is exactly what it says it is.


Don't worry - we'll always show you pictures of the complete jacket!


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