A DOG-EARED old book donated to a charity shop in a job lot of other veteran volumes didn’t look that remarkable at first glance.
But on closer inspection the treasure trove tome, pictured right – left at the Oxfam shop in Berkhamsted High Street – turned out to be a rare 1938 first edition copy, in its original dustwrapper, of Samuel Beckett’s first published novel.
And at Bonhams auction house in Oxford on Tuesday the rare copy of Murphy, which originally cost just 7/6d – 38p in today’s money – sold for a staggering £15,000.
Charity experts knew they were on to a winner but were stunned by the final price, which was about twice what the rare book had been expected to fetch.
Lydia Wilkinson, an antiquarian books expert at Bonhams, said: “It’s a quite exciting discovery. The original dustwrapper is very important, especially in this condition, with everything intact.”
In fact, the dustwrapper was the extra attraction that added thousands of pounds to the book’s value – without it, the sale price would probably have been nearer £1,000.
The book was among a collection of books donated by a stranger to store.
Manager Jane Hockings said: “It is a fantastic donation and easily the most expensive book we have been given.
“We cannot remember who brought it in ,although it was brought with some other books.”
Oxfam is now Europe’s biggest seller of secondhand books. Every month the charity – which has a specialist book and music shop in Berkhamsted as well as a shop selling clothing and other goods, sells around £1.7 million worth of books – enough to buy 50,000 emergency shelters, build more than 1,000 classrooms and provide safe water for over 2.1 million people.