A proof copy of Harry Potter found in an Oxford school

A proof copy of Harry Potter found in an Oxford school was sold for £13,000

An original proof copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was recently rediscovered at St Kenelm’s Primary School in Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxfordshire, and subsequently sold at auction for a remarkable sum of £13,000. This valuable literary artifact, which had been acquired for a mere £1 back in 1997, went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers.

With its straightforward yellow and white cover and unique “J. A. Rowling” on the title page, the proof copy stands out and provides an intriguing look into the early stages of the Harry Potter craze. The book’s discovery was made by former head teacher Bob Alder, aged 75, during his summer efforts to organize a school cupboard. This rare literary gem had been safely tucked away until it went missing in 2015.

The school’s decision to sell the book was driven by the desire to provide its students with enhanced literary experiences and updated educational resources. “Finances are tight – it’s going to boost giving them new resources in the school,” Alder said.

Jim Spencer, the head of books at Hansons Auctioneers, commented on the significance of this uncorrected proof copy, noting that it is one of only 200 printed by Bloomsbury in 1997. He emphasized that the first Harry Potter book is now published for the very first time. All of it springs from this, including the book signing tours, the late-night lines outside bookstores, the films, and the merchandising.

The successful auction resulted in a winning bid of £13,000, with the successful bidder also obligated to pay a buyer’s premium at the rate of 26% plus VAT. Additionally, alongside the proof copy, a proposed illustrated cover of the first Harry Potter book and a 15th-anniversary competition prize edition of the book personally signed and dedicated by J.K. Rowling, were also auctioned, further showcasing the enduring and magical appeal of the wizarding world she created.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter book

|The book was taken out of the library when Harry Potter first gained popularity at the school.

This unique book serves as an early example, noteworthy for an intriguing quirk—it bears the author’s name as ‘J. A. Rowling’ rather than the familiar ‘J K Rowling.’ In 1997, the school acquired this literary gem, but for a period of eight years, it mysteriously vanished, leading to concerns that it might have been mistakenly discarded.

Fortuitously, during a routine summer cleanup, this rare find resurfaced, and it is now poised to fetch tens of thousands of pounds at auction potentially. The stage for its auctioning has been set at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbys., with a guide price estimated at £15,000-£20,000 on September 5.

Jim Spencer, the head of books at Hanson’s, emphasized the historical significance of this book, describing it as the genesis of the entire Harry Potter phenomenon. He pointed out the peculiarities of the title page, which lists the author’s name as both ‘J A Rowling’ and ‘Joanne Rowling,’ a feature that sets it apart as a true collector’s item.

Believed to be one of just 200 copies printed by Bloomsbury, this unassuming paperback holds immense historical importance. It marks the beginning of a cultural sensation that encompasses author signing tours, midnight queues outside bookshops, blockbuster movies, and a vast array of merchandise—all of which trace their origins back to this unassuming book.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter

The book bears a stamp indicating its association with St Kenelm’s School, where it once graced the library shelves for students to explore. Interestingly, its plain cover did not attract much attention at the time. However, as the fervor surrounding Harry Potter grew, the school wisely withdrew it from circulation, preserving it remarkably well over the years.

Bob Alder, the retired headteacher of St Kenelm’s School in Witney, Oxfordshire, shared insights into the book’s origin. He recounted that the school acquired it during an annual book sale held by Red House Books Ltd, where local educational institutions had the first pick of the available books. The unassuming nature of this particular copy, its modest price of £1, and the emerging buzz surrounding the Harry Potter story all contributed to its acquisition.

In hindsight, it’s clear that this uncorrected proof copy, with its unique author attribution and historical significance, is a literary treasure with a fascinating journey from obscurity to potential fortune at auction.

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