Fleming’s papers: Life as it is vs. how it should be

Ian Fleming

This week, The Indianapolis Star (a paper where the Spy Commander worked for 17 years) had a feature story about how Indiana University is the home to a collection of Ian Fleming’s first-edition books and 007 manuscripts.

Understandably, this made its way around social media. Some British 007 fans decried how a library in the United States had custody of this material.

I understand the sentiment. But when you look at things how they are compared with how they should be, the situation becomes more complicated.

Ann Fleming

Specifically, Ann Fleming (1913-1981), the widow of Ian Fleming, had no use for James Bond.  She thought she was marrying the foreign editor of The Sunday Times of London.

Instead, she got married to an author who was in the process of creating James Bond.

Ian Fleming died in August 1964. Ann eventually sold off Ian’s collection of rare first-edition books (the primary interest of Indiana University’s Lilly Library). As part of the deal, she threw in many Ian Fleming manuscripts of James Bond novels.

As a chaser, the university received Fleming correspondence with the likes of (among others) Raymond Chandler, Allen Dulles and Robert F. Kennedy.

Anyway, during a discussion about this on Facebook, some British fans decried how the papers concerning the most British of heroes were housed in the United States.

I understand that. It is not what you’d expect.

The thing is, if Ann Fleming hadn’t sold the collection off, she probably would have just chucked it all in the trash. She wasn’t a Bond fan and it was taking up a lot of space in her home.

The question is not why are Fleming’s papers in the United States. The answer is known: Ann sold them off (for $150,000, according to The Indianapolis Star story).

The question is are the papers in safe hands? The Lilly Library at Indiana University has holdings including a Gutenberg Bible. The answer appears to be yes.

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