Bond stamps: From Ruislip with love

Celebrate Ian Fleming's centenary with an extra-long Bond stamp, says John Walsh
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The Independent Culture

You may notice every special-edition stamp issued by the Royal Mail, and marvel at its elegant tributes to historical figures; then again, you may not notice them at all. You may be delighted to hear that in 2008 the Mail will issue stamps to commemorate working dogs, coastguards, Carry On and Hammer Films, cathedrals, air shows, women of distinction and RAF uniforms; or you might be blithely indifferent to them all.

But it'll be hard for you not to notice the stamps commemorating the centenary of Ian Fleming's birth, because they will be twice as big as any others. The stamps will feature the jackets of six James Bond books: Casino Royale, Dr No, From Russia With Love, For Your Eyes Only, Diamonds Are Forever and Goldfinger a curious list in choosing For Your Eyes Only (a collection of stories) above such classic Bond novels as Live and Let Die or Moonraker. Each long stamp shows each book in four incarnations: the original hardback and three paperbacks. Two hardback covers, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, feature designs by Richard Chopping, whose hyper-realist guns, roses and skulls became the template for heavy-metal CD covers 30 years later. Each stamp offers a potted history of spy-novel iconography. The Pan jackets, with their understated secret codes and visual metaphors (Dr No's spider web, From Russia With Love's Faberg egg, the Spirit of Ecstasy from Goldfinger's Rolls-Royce) were replaced by crass pictures of the spy hero centre-stage, in action, in the sea, and on a bar stool themselves to be replaced by the Penguin Viking covers, beautiful retro images of the books' real selling propositions: chicks and baddies.

The stamps are issued on 8 January. Do pay attention, Double-O-Seven.