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Ian Fleming’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and Wisden Cricket Almanacs Soar at Bonhams Books Sale

Ian Fleming’s revised typescript of Diamonds are Forever and a complete set of the Wisden Cricketers Almanack from the years 1864 to 1984 left bidders both shaken and stirred as they made astonishing prices at Bonhams Books and Manuscripts Sale, November 10, in London.

Diamonds Are ForeverThe Fleming typescript was estimated to sell for £20 – £30,000 but sold for £62,400, and the full set of Wisdens from 1864 to 1984 estimated to sell for £50,000 to £70,000 made £90,000. The sale total was £705,000 with a selling rate of 96 per cent by value.

Lot 42, Ian Fleming’s final revised typescript of Diamonds Are Forever, from, 1955-1956 is peppered throughout with authorial tweaks, written in Fleming’s characteristic blue ballpoint. Many tauten the plot, while some are gloriously inconsequential (to the untrained eye at least): a telephone number, for example, gets altered from Wisconsin 9.00456 to Wisconsin 7.3697. When Bond checks himself into the Hotel Astor it was originally “in front of an elderly woman”; now it is “before a hatchet-faced woman with a bosom like a sandbag”.

Or, at page 88, “too many expense-account customers” becomes “too much expense-account aristocracy”. While most pages contain one or two alterations, more substantial additions appear in eight places. Every now and then the nagging voice of the publisher’s reader can be heard, saying at one point, but surely the world’s diamond centre is Amsterdam?

This script was typed by Fleming’s secretary Ulrica Knowles. Her work is jokingly acknowledged (as was his custom) in his presentation copy of the book: “To Rica/ who wrote it”. The book had originally been typed by Fleming at Goldeneye early in 1955, both the top copy and carbon of the original version being now at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana. Ours was presumably typed by Mrs Knowles from the Goldeneye typescript: her top-copy going first to the publisher’s reader and then to Fleming, with his revisions then being entered onto the carbon. Original manuscripts and typescripts of Fleming’s major works are extremely rare on the market. Indeed apparently the only ones not in the Lilly Library in Indiana are the present version of Diamonds Are Forever.

A complete run of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, for the years 1864 to 1984, handsomely bound and in fine condition was the top lot in this sale which also saw a unique Jacobean play sell for £84,000 and papers relating to the life of the revolutionary Thomas Paine selling for £86,400.

Without doubt the most famous sports reference work ever published, the Cricketers’ Almanack, or “Bible of Cricket” as it has become known, was founded in 1864 by the cricketer John Wisden (1826-1884) as a competitor to Fred Lillywhite’s The Guide to Cricketers. Its publication has continued uninterrupted to the present day, under only 15 different editors in its entire 140 years.