This was clearly shown by a box of books sent into Thomson Roddick of Carlisle for their sale of June 21.
I gather that John Thomson was almost beside himself with excitement when he pulled out the copy of Ian Fleming’s sought after book.
It is identifiable as one of the 4729 first impression copies produced by Jonathan Cape by the absence of a Times review, and the jacket, showing only slight chipping and wear to the upper spine end and some creasing on the back, was unclipped.
The contents were noted as clean and there were no ownership inscriptions.
The consignor knew it was a first edition, but a dealer friend to whom it was first shown professed not to have sufficient expertise with modern firsts and it was left to the saleroom to come up with a valuation.
They were perhaps over conservative in their estimate of £5000-8000, but news spread quickly on social media, with Instagram in particular seeing lively exchanges, said Carlisle saleroom manager Steven Parkinson.
Interest came from as far afield as Sweden, Russia and the USA and all phone lines were booked, but on the day it was a bidder from the south of England who secured the prize at £22,500.
No straightforward first has made more at auction. The previous best, according to ABPC [American Book Prices Current], was a copy in the Falktoft library that in 2001, at Christie’s East in New York, made $30,000 (then £20,400) – though not listed by ABPC is another that Bonhams sold for £19,000 in 2016.
Sold by Christie’s New York in 2002 for $40,000 (then £25,600) was the Rechler library copy, inscribed “This pre-natal 1st Edition of the first of the collected works of Balzache” to his friend John Hayward, but the outright record holder is an advance review copy sold last year by Sotheby’s at £32,000.
One of those sent out to the press, Fleming’s Kemsley Newspaper colleagues, friends, etc., the Sotheby’s copy was inscribed to Ralph Arnold, a novelist, historical writer and later chairman of Constable. They had met years earlier at a quasi-finishing school in Kitzbuhel, Austria, where Fleming, having left Sandhurst without a commission, had been sent to “sort himself out”.
Fleming’s inscription reads “To Ralph, We have now both reduced our remainders by one copy”, beneath which Arnold later wrote, “I having told Ian, from the depths of my publishing experience, that he would be lucky if he made £200 out of this, his first thriller!!”