Donated book makes Oxfam £37k

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The Independent Culture

Oxfam had its biggest windfall at an auction after a 19th-century book that was donated to one of the charity's shops sold for £37,200.

The book, A Trip To The Highlands of Viti Levu, was one of a selection of rare books taken to the Oxfam branch in Teignmouth, Devon, by an anonymous retired man late last year.

The 1882 photo documentary tells of a journey the year before by a scientist at the Royal Society of London Gerrard Ansdell and his brother to find their long-lost brother who was thought to be planting coffee in Fiji. He was eventually found on the island of Viti Levu and the brothers recorded their trip in the book, which includes 44 portraits of Fijians.

Only a few copies of the self-published book were made and only one has appeared at auction before, selling for 190 Australian dollars in 1977. This copy was sold by Bonhams in London for £37,200, which includes a buyer's premium, on Tuesday, the highest price ever paid at auction for an item donated to Oxfam.

The charity said the sum was 23,000 times more than the £1.60 average selling price for a book in an Oxfam shop and would be enough to buy 1,500 goats, feed 5,300 families or provide safe water for 41,000 people. Suzy Alder, books project manager at Oxfam, said the book was "an unprecedented discovery" and its sale was an "amazing result".

Previously, the most Oxfam had raised from a single book was £18,000 at two sales: a 1601 first edition of A Treatise of Commerce by John Wheeler in 2005 and a rare Graham Greene early novel, Rumour at Nightfall, in 2008.