April 3, 2013


I've often wondered what it felt like for Ian Fleming to sit at his Royal Quiet Deluxe Gold typewriter. We sometimes see Gold Royals on eBay, but the models always seem to be a slightly different design. What made Fleming's circa 1952 model unique? To answer this, I corresponded with agent Cary Mark, who had posted some news and images about his father's 1953 Gold Royal, similar to the one Fleming owned. I believe someone out there is working on a database to catalog the typewriters and their design variations. But in the meantime, I thought you would enjoy seeing some photographs of Cary Mark's Royal Quiet Deluxe Gold. I asked  him to shoot close-ups, including some studies of specific keys, so that I could make this collage for my fellow Fleming fans!

I also asked Cary to describe some of the unique features of his 1953 model. "The Fleming model is more streamlined and has rounded front corners, compared to the square model one sees on eBay. You can see that the gold case runs in front of the black space bar. The other model has squared-off front corners and the black space bar looks totally different at the very front of the typewriter. The two levers on the front panel that control ribbon color and ribbon reverse look totally different on both models, as well as the trim surrounding them. Since they are different models, I am guessing that many of the individual parts are different and not interchangeable." 

It has been suggested that Royal Golds were designed by different designers during different years, but we have not verified specific names yet. Here are some of the new close-ups from Cary Mark, plus a nice "portrait" from a collector site, and a second collage I created. Imagine, if you will, typing out the manuscripts for early classics like Casino Royale (about to celebrate its 60th anniversary this month!), Live and Let Die and Moonraker. Tap-tap-tap.

The auction literature from Christie's had this to say about Fleming's famous model, sold as Lot 122 in 1995: Price Realized £55,750 
 Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits. Estimate £5,000 - £8,000 ($7,995 - $12,792)

Lot Description
A Royal Quiet De Luxe portable typewriter, circa 1952, with gold-plated body and fittings, four-row keyboard, 11 x 11 x 6in., in composition carrying case, the attached paper tag with printed address: "The Pantechnicon, Heathfield Terrace" and manuscript inscription: "Mrs I. Fleming 4, 23-2-73."

By direct descent to the Hon. Mrs Fionn Morgan, the writer's stepdaughter (sold with a letter of provenance).

Lot Notes
Ian Fleming commissioned this typewriter from the Royal Typewriter Company in New York in the spring of 1952, as a replacement for his old Imperial. The first draft of the novel Casino Royale, introducing 007 agent James Bond, had been read enthusiastically by Fleming's publishers Jonathan Cape. However they commented that "although the details were original and interesting ... the book, though publishable, needed extensive revision." For this revision, Fleming had chosen a symbol to remind himself where, with luck, his future lay. This was a new typewriter to replace his old Imperial, a golden typewriter. He had ordered it in New York and on May 17th, some weeks before submitting the manuscript to his publisher, he wrote to a his friend Ivar Bryce in New York asking him to bring the typewriter over on his next trip to England: "Here is one vital request. I am having constructed for me by the Royal Typewriter Company a golden typewriter which is to cost $174. I will not tell you why I am acquiring this machine." The gold-plated typewriter duly arrived and Fleming completed the revised manuscript which was accepted by Jonathan Cape for publication the following April. Fleming typed all his subsequent novels on this gleaming but compact machine that seems to encapsulate the half-fantasy world of ostentatious 1950's gadgetry so familiar from the Bond novels themselves." 

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Check Spy Vibe for recent posts about Ian Fleming: the 60th Anniversary of Casino RoyaleIan Fleming's WWII Commandos, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, plus my recent series about Ian Fleming's musicNoel Coward,Whispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr. Other recent posts include Cold War PhotographyOperation Kid Brother (MST3K), PG Tips Brooke Bond, 1960s espionage writers, my review of SKYFALLand more.

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  1. I thought Pierce Brosnan owned Ian Fleming's gold typewriter? That doesn't appear to be this one, though. I guess he must have had a few over the years. I wonder if Brosnan still owns his, or if he's shuffled off all vestiges of Bond?

  2. in my last post about Fleming's typewriter, i added that i'm pretty certain that Brosnan has denied buying the bond author's gold Royal at Christie's and that its whereabouts are unknown. Fleming's circa '52 model is very close (if not the same) in design to Cary Mark's '53 gold royal pictured here. where is Fleming's? i'm sure the secret will come out eventually, or it will be re-sold.