James Bond And The Decline Of Western Civilization

A new set of extra-long British stamps featuring covers from the James Bond novels has been issued by the Royal Mail today. Designed by A2/SW/HK each one features four cover designs of the same novel, getting progressively more populist – some might say tacky – as they progress from left to right.

bond stamps

A new set of extra-long British stamps featuring covers from the James Bond novels has been issued by the Royal Mail today. Designed by A2/SW/HK each one features four cover designs of the same novel, getting noticeably more populist – some might say tacky – as they progress from left to right.

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Issued to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, each stamp begins with the cover from first edition hardbacks before progressing through paperback versions from the 1960’s, 70’s/80’s and current Penguin editions.

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The final images, in fact, are closer to film posters than book covers, betraying the obvious influence of the Bond movies. The Goldfinger cover, for example, moves from an intriguing image of a skull clutching a rose between its teeth in the first cover, through to a design majoring on the eponymous villain’s gold Rolls Royce (an ingenious method of smuggling bullion across the continent) through to a deliberate focus on two key scenes from the film – the golf match where Bond reveals his foe’s true wickedness (He CHEATS. At GOLF. What a bounder) and the iconic scene where Shirley Eaton’s character meets a macabre, if titillating, end thanks to being sprayed head to toe in gold paint.

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Compare first to last image in each set and what do we find? A dumbed-down, sexed-up nose-dive from intriguing subtlety to crass commercialism. The Bond cover as convenient short-hand for the decline of popular culture generally and the art of the book jacket in particular?

Design: A2/SW/HK
Photography: Kevin Summers
Design Manager: Susan Gilson
Stamp Design © Royal Mail Group Ltd 2008

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