Another week, another interview — welcome back! Today we’re speaking to James Fleming, editor of The Book Collector.

James Fleming, editor of The Book Collector, Victoria Dailey, the deputy editor and John Payne, the appraiser who valued Nixon’s Watergate tapes.

The Book Collector is a quarterly journal, in print and online, offering 192 pages per issue of wit, pleasure and knowledge on all aspects of the book through all ages. There is anything up to ten articles in each issue, book reviews, obituaries, prices at book auctions and a section on world-wide book chat.

The complete digital archive of The Book Collector dates back to 1947 and individuals and institutions can purchase subscriptions through the Exact Editions online shops for fully-searchable access across, web, iOS and Android devices.

Without further ado, let’s hear from James!

1) What is the history of The Book Collector?

The Book Collector was founded by my uncle, Ian Fleming, in 1952, the same year that he wrote the first James Bond book, Casino Royale. He’d built up a fabulous collection of first editions of books published since 1800 that had made a contribution to western civilisation: bridge, soccer, atomic warfare, boy scouts, penicillin, television — the list is endless. 

After his death in 1964, the magazine was bought by Nicolas Barker, under whose guardianship it remained for the next fifty years. It then came back to the Fleming family, in the person of myself, one of the sons of Richard Fleming, Ian’s younger brother.

We’ve been in business, therefore, for nearly seventy years. Our mission statement has four words only: ‘to be the best’. In addition to articles on all aspects of the writing, publishing and collection of books, we carry news about booksellers and their catalogues, book reviews, interviews with librarians and obituaries of scholars and collectors. Our archive contains all our work since the beginning.

2) What’s your role within The Book Collector?

As the editor, I’m kept busy, as you can imagine. Busy is what I enjoy.

Issues from The Book Collector’s complete digital archive

3) What impact has the pandemic had on your publication, both short-term and long-term?

Much of our business is with institutions. The pandemic has highlighted procedural questions that we’d shoved into the background. The issue of shelf space is one: shelves take up room and real estate is expensive to buy and to fit out. Though we are traditionally a print operation, the need to go digital is a necessary transition. Allied to this is the log-in process for libraries: password versus IP number. Here again we need to get modern. The reasons why these, and lesser issues, have surfaced during lockdown are twofold: the staff as well as readers at libraries are wary of handling physical books and in many cases employees are continuing to work from home and are less able to cope with the daily admin as well as unpacking, recording and shelving books.

4) What is your vision for The Book Collector in 10 years’ time?

We are a tiny operation, like many in the book world, and to comprehend the problems fully and to coordinate our response has been a process we could have done without. But having bitten the bullet, we can now see quite clearly what we’ll be doing in ten years’ time: publishing the best stuff that is available anywhere in the world on the broad subject of ‘the book’.

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Thanks so much for speaking to us James and telling us about The Book Collector’s rich history! 

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