Michael L. VanBlaricum: Fleming and Bondiana Collector

Photography Courtesy of ECE Illinois

Michael L. VanBlaricum holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Mike married his engineering classmate Pam Calvetti (BS, MS, PhD) in 1972. Mike and Pam have lived in Santa Barbara, California, since 1976 where Mike most recently worked as a research engineer. Mike was born and raised in Princeton, Illinois.

Mike became an over-the-top James Bond fan upon seeing the film Goldfinger when he was fourteen, but didn't start collecting Fleming literature and Bondiana until he was thirty. In 1979, when he got the bug to read the James Bond canon, he was disappointed to discover the novels were not readily available in the United States. He started haunting second hand bookstores and rare book dealers in order to find used copies. This led to his finding several first editions, and it wasn't long after that when Mike's motto became, "If it is printed and relates to Ian Fleming or James Bond, I want it!"

In order to front his collecting habit he started a mail order rare book business, The Book Stalker. The Book Stalker's first catalog cover advertised "Mystery and Suspense Fiction and Bondiana," thus coining the word "Bondiana." The Book Stalker became known to collectors around the world as a prime source for Bond and Fleming books and ephemera. However, it must be noted that all the really good stuff that passed through Mike's hands managed to find a permanent place in his own collection. Fortunately for Mike, in the early 1980s, there were very few Ian Fleming collectors in the world, and he found it fairly easy to dominate the field. American dealers, as well as a few British dealers, knew if they offered him something he didn't own, he would most likely buy it.

In 1984, Mike traveled to London for an engineering-related conference. During that trip he met Peter Janson-Smith, Chairman of Glidrose Productions, Ltd. and formerly Ian Fleming's literary agent, and Nichol Fleming, Ian Fleming's nephew. Both gentlemen became Mike's friends and were able to give him insight into Ian Fleming's life and writings. Over the years, Mike's Ian Fleming and Bondiana collection has grown from solely Fleming literature to also include Fleming's letters, short stories, journalism articles, and manuscripts. His collection also includes artwork, posters, comics, movie properties, music, records, reference books, and all kinds of ephemera imaginable.

In 1991, Mike was contacted by Saul Cooper, then the marketing guru of Danjaq, S.A., the holding company responsible for the copyright and trademarks to the characters, elements, and other material related to James Bond on-screen. Saul started the conversation with, "Hey, Mike, you want to buy a submarine?" After a few pointed questions it turned out that the Neptune, the 23-foot submarine from the film For Your Eyes Only, needed a home and it was being offered to him. Mike immediately called friends and fellow collectors John Cork and Doug Redenius. The three came up with the idea of founding an organization with the purpose of cataloging and preserving Ian Fleming's legacy. Hence, the Neptune became the catalyst for the formation of The Ian Fleming Foundation (IFF), which was founded in July 1992. As a public benefit nonprofit corporation based in California, the IFF is dedicated to the study and preservation of the history of Ian Fleming's literary works, the James Bond phenomenon, and their impact on popular culture. One of the IFF's goals is to procure, restore, preserve, and archive the original works of Ian Fleming and all of the subsequent byproducts of that original body of work. These include the films as well as the merchandise and memorabilia spawned by the films.

Mike has begun donating his collection to the University of Illinois Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The Michael L. VanBlaricum Collection of Ian Fleming and Bondiana will allow the world to get an unprecedented glimpse into the work of the singular mind that created the Bond phenomenon of the 20th Century – Ian Fleming.

Mike's connections with Illinois, however, are multifaceted. In 1972, he co-chaired Engineering Open House (the largest student run event at the University) with his soon-to-be wife, Pam. In 2006 Mike was honored with the U of I Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department's Distinguished Alumnus Award for his achievements in his chosen areas of engineering research. He now serves as President-Elect for the ECE Alumni Board and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Spurlock Museum. He also developed the concept and is leading the effort for the Illinois Distributed Museum a project to highlight engineering and technology innovations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Special Thanks to:

Ian Fleming Publications Limited

EON Producations

Ian Fleming Estate

Thomas and Mercer

The Ian Fleming Foundation


The International Spy Museum

The Lilly Library, Indiana University