Mary Wickham Bond papers on the "real" James Bond
Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department [Contact Us]Philadelphia, PA, 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The lives of James and Mary Bond, a Philadelphia ornithologist and author, respectively, were altered the day that author Ian Fleming, a bird lover who was familiar with Bond’s book, The Birds of the West Indies, appropriated James Bond’s name for his fictional spy character. The resulting confusion prompted Mary Wickham Bond to write How 007 Got His Name, in 1966 in which she tells the story of the real James Bond.
James Bond (1900-1989) was a leading American ornithologist. He was born on January 4, 1900 in Philadelphia, but received his earliest education at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. Following his mother’s death, he relocated to England with his father and attended Harrow School and Cambridge University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1922. After graduation, Bond returned to Philadelphia and worked for the banking firm, the Pennsylvania Company in the Foreign Exchange Department. In 1925, Bond left the Pennsylvania Company to pursue his real interest, natural history and ornithology. That year, he joined an expedition to the Amazon that was sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. From that point on, Bond worked for the Academy of Natural Sciences, eventually rising to the position of Curator of Birds. He was an expert in Caribbean birds and wrote the definitive book on the subject, Birds of the West Indies, which was first published in 1936. Bond won the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Medal in 1952, the Brewster Medal of the American Ornithologists Union in 1954, the Wilderness Club (Philadelphia) Medal in 1961, the Silver Medal of the Congresso Iber-Americano de Ornitologia in 1983 and the Leidy Medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1975. He was a prolific writer of about thirty papers on the birds of the West Indies and peripheral islands and about a dozen papers on birds of Maine and the Maritime provinces. James Bond died on February 14, 1989.
In 1953, James Bond married Mary Fanning Wickham Porcher Lewis. Mary was born on June 8, 1898 in Philadelphia and received a diploma from Dana Hall in 1916. She also took extension courses in English at Columbia University in 1938 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. Mary married her first husband, Shippen Lewis, an attorney, in 1934. She was an author, writing for the Chestnut Hill Local, a weekly newspaper, which she founded and also edited. Mary was the author of The Tilted Cup, in 1926; Cherique, in 1928; Gloom Creek in 1929; Device and Desire in 1950; and the Petrified Gesture in 1951. She also contributed articles, poetry and short stories to many magazines. Mary's first husband, Shippen Lewis, died in 1952.
Mary married James Bond on August 23, 1953 and traveled with him extensively on expeditions to Turneffe Islands, British Honduras in 1954, the Caribbean, and the Venezuelan islands.
In 1953, Ian Fleming published his first James Bond novel, appropriating Mary’s husband name for his fictional spy character. The resulting escapades prompted Mary to write the story How 007 Got his Name, in 1966 and became a focus of storytelling and collecting throughout the remainder of her life. In 1971, Mary wrote Far Afield in the Caribbean: Migratory Flights of a Naturalist’s Wife, regarding her travels with her husband, and in 1980, she wrote To James Bond with Love, a biography of her husband and her life with him which includes stories of Bond’s meeting with Ian Fleming. In 1988, Mary wrote an autobiography entitled, Ninety Years at Home in Philadelphia. Mary died in 1997 at the age of 99.
This collection consists of Mary Wickham Bond’s collection of information regarding her husband, James Bond; her own works on the writing, publishing and promoting of her books about James Bond; and David Contosta’s writings about her James Bond. The collection is arranged in three series: “James Bond papers,” “Mary Wickham Bond papers,” and “David Contosta papers.”
The “James Bond papers” consist of his ornithological writings, including “The Distribution and Origin of the West Indian Avifauna,” “Origin of the Bird Fauna of the West Indies,” “Derivation of the Antillean Avifauna,” “Affinities of the Antillean Avifauna,” “Derivations and Continental Affinities of Antillean Birds,” and “Derivations of Lesser Antillean Birds.” This series also includes newspaper clippings regarding his career and awards he received, correspondence, and photographs. Of interest to researchers will almost certainly be a letter from David Lack from the Edward Gray Institute of Field Ornithology at Oxford regarding the “Bond Line” which separated North and South American bird families.
The “Mary Wickham Bond papers” include primarily correspondence and information regarding the publication and promotion of her books about her husband: How 007 Got His Name, Far Afield in the Caribbean, and To James Bond with Love. This correspondence is largely with Collins Publishers who published How 007 Got His Name, and Sutter House who published both Far Afield in the Caribbean and To James Bond with Love. She also created scrapbooks regarding the publishing of her books. Included in the collection are uncorrected proofs of her books as well as a 1st American edition of How 007 Got His Name. In addition to documenting her own career, Mary followed her husband’s career as well. Both of their lives are well documented in two scrapbooks entitled “James and Mary Bondiana,” which cover the years 1953 to approximately 1985. These scrapbooks are filled with newspaper clippings, articles from the Chestnut Hill Local, invitations and photographs.
The last series in the collection, “David Contosta papers” includes a manuscript of and clippings on The Private Life of James Bond, which was written by Contosta, a friend of the Bonds.
Researchers interested in the real James Bond; the quirky results of Fleming’s hijacking of the name; Mary Wickham Bond and her career; or the process of publishing books in the 1960s to the 1980s will find this collection to be valuable. Mary Bond’s collection documents the life of the real James Bond as well as her life with him. Researchers will find a fair amount of information regarding James Bond’s career via news clippings, photographs, and published works, but should consult the James Bond papers at the Academy of Natural Sciences for more information about his ornithological work.
The collection is arranged in three series: I. James Bond papers; II. Mary Wickham Bond papers; III. David Contosta papers.
Gift of Mary F. W. Bond, 1998
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material.
The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material.
A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.