The catalogue issued in 1946 (previous Jot) by the directors of Elkin Mathews Ltd of Takeley, near Bishops Stortford, probably contained descriptions of books and manuscripts by one of the directors, Ian Fleming, an avid book collector. It’s tempting to imagine the future creator of James Bond trawling through some of the items in the catalogue in search of likely material.
We don’t know what language skills his fellow directors, B. K. Muir and C. H. Muir had, but we know that before the Second World War Fleming attended universities in Munich and Geneva to work on his language skills and visited Moscow in 1933 while working for Reuters. It is likely that he was responsible for translating some, if not all, of the foreign language manuscripts being sold by Elkin Mathews.
First, he may have examined a letter from the disciple of Karl Marx and founder of the Social Democratic Party, A. Bebel (1840 – 1913), which was written in German in 1893.In it Bebel complains that ‘since the abolition of the ban very few intellectuals and university folk have joined the party, or if they have done so, have abandoned it later on, out of fear or for reasons of social ambition’. He attacks the evolutionary socialist Rodbertus, who was opposed to Marxism and the University- Socialists.
This letter of ‘great importance ‘ was priced at 9 guineas.
There is also a holograph MS of Maxim Gorki’s “From my Diary” consisting of 12 folio pages in Russian and priced at a bargain £40—more than a month’s salary for a British University lecturer in Russian in 1946.
You could also buy a letter from the Swedish Nobel prize winner Selma Lagerlof ( who she ?,Ed ) for £2 10s,a ‘ very fine letter ‘ from the Nazarene painter J.F.Overbeck dated 1852 for 10/- less and ( a real bargain, this) ten letters from the German impressionist painter Liebermann, a victim of Nazi prejudice, for £2 15s. A single letter from the gifted German draughtsman A. von Menzel, to which were attached ‘ ‘three fine pen-and-ink drawings’, could be yours for £20. Continue reading