Catch These 5 Incredible Finds—From Ian Fleming’s Annotated James Bond Draft to a Rare Tolkien Trove—at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair

The authoritative books and manuscripts fair makes a triumphant return this weekend in a swanky new venue.

Courtesy of Firsts London.

Bookworms, rejoice: Firsts London, the expert-adored rare book fair and the Antiquarian  Booksellers’ Association’s annual flagship event, is back. After an 18-month hiatus, the fair returns for its 64th year in spectacular new digs at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. (The ABA leaders are hoping to stay at the venue for the foreseeable future).

Though in new environs, the fair is staying true to its core mission of presenting the very best of iconic rare books, manuscripts and works on paper from around the world, from ancient wonders to contemporary masterpieces from 120 leading UK and international dealers. 

Pom Harrington, ABA President and Fair Chairman, told Artnet News that the fair “will offer booksellers and visitors a well-deserved and much anticipated opportunity to reconnect, meet and trade in Saatchi Gallery’s inspiring setting.” He added that although many of ABA’s member dealers sustained their business through online fairs for the past two years, “There is nothing that compares to the atmosphere and sense of discovery that a real-life fair provides.”

While there are thousands of offerings to peruse, we’ve picked five standout works you won’t want to miss.


Ian Fleming’s Final Revised Typescript for Diamonds Are Forever,
with Handwritten Revisions Throughout

Jonkers Rare Books

Ian Fleming’s Final Revised Typescript of “Diamonds Are Forever” with handwritten revisions throughout (1955). Courtesy of Jonkers Rare Books.

Ian Fleming’s final revised typescript of Diamonds Are Forever, with handwritten revisions throughout (1955). Courtesy of Jonkers Rare Books.

007 fans won’t want to miss this; Jonkers Rare Books, located in Henley-on-Thames, is offering Ian Fleming’s revised typescript of Diamonds are Forever. The draft is heavily revised by the author, with numerous autograph additions, revealing Fleming’s process as he honed the fourth Bond novel into its final shape—almost every page of the manuscript shows authorial tweaks in Fleming’s characteristic blue ballpoint. The first draft was typed by Fleming at his Jamaican villa (called Goldeneye) early in 1955; this final draft was then typed by Fleming’s secretary Ulrica Knowles from that typescript, with one copy going to Fleming for his final revisions. The carbon copy was sold at auction at Sotheby’s in December 2002 for £138,600.

According to the dealer, original manuscripts and typescripts of Fleming’s major works are extremely rare on the market, this being one of only three full typescripts known in private hands—the other two being The Man With The Golden Gun and You Only Live Twice, both containing significantly fewer authorial annotations.



A first edition of Raymond Chandler’s Playback (1958)
Peter Harrington

A first edition of Raymond Chandler’s Playback (London, 1958).

A first edition of Raymond Chandler’s Playback (London, 1958).

This first-edition copy of the U.K. edition of Raymond Chandler’s Playback is inscribed by the author on the front endpaper to author Ian Fleming with “To Ian, with love, Ray.” This gift from the creator of Philip Marlowe to the creator of James Bond is a one-of-a-kind treasure for literature lovers.

A Rare Tchaikovsky Manuscript for “Allegro molto” from the
Opera The Maid of Orleans
Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer Nfg.

A Rare Tchaikovsky Manuscript for “Allegro molto" from the Opera “The Maid of Orleans”. Courtesy of Antiquariaat Inlibris Gilhofer Nfg. GmbH.

A rare Tchaikovsky manuscript for “Allegro molto” from the opera The Maid of Orleans (ca. 1878–79). Courtesy of Antiquariaat Inlibris Gilhofer Nfg. GmbH.

A very rare musical manuscript, here we see the orchestral score for a dance from The Maid of Orleans, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky between 1878 and 1879. The opera premiered on February 25, 1881, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg; the following year, it became the first of Tchaikovsky’s operas to be performed outside Russia, with a production opening in Prague in July 1882.


Botanical albums by Countess Mary Macclesfield
and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker
Maggs Bros Ltd.

A page from the botanical albums by Countess Mary Macclesfield and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker (1756–1767). Courtesy of Maggs Bros Ltd.

A page from the botanical albums by Countess Mary Macclesfield and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker (1756–1767). Courtesy of Maggs Bros Ltd.

These lavishly illustrated botanical albums were made by Countess Mary Macclesfield and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker in the mid-18th century. Countess Mary Macclesfield was married to George Parker, fourth Earl of Macclesfield, and claimed to be a descendent of Sir Francis Drake. Botanical illustrations were then considered to be a pastime appropriate to upper-class women, though such albums often served as important scientific and even medicinal records. These albums, which are in remarkable condition, contain 72 depictions of various specimens, one or two with butterflies and other insects, and are intricately detailed. 



J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937)
Peter Harrington 

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (London, 1937).

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937). Courtesy of Peter Harrington.

This is one of two untrimmed pre-publication sets of sheets that were collected by Tolkien himself from the printers and are printed on slightly different paper stock from the eventual trade edition. It was given by Tolkien to his friend Russell Meiggs for his opinion. After receiving the sheets and reading the final version as it would be published, Meiggs wrote to Tolkien with his thoughts on the book, and Tolkien forwarded Meiggs’s letter to the publishers, noting: “The most valuable is the document I enclose, in case it may interest you: a letter from R. Meiggs (at present editing the Oxford Magazine). He has no reason for sparing my feelings, and is usually a plain speaker. Of course, he has no connexions [sic] with reviewing coteries, and is virtually a mere member of the avuncular public.” The first edition was published on September 21, 1937, and the first impression of 1,500 copies was sold out by December.


Firsts, London’s rare-book fair, runs October 21–24, 2021, at Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York Square, London SW3 4RY.

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