Readers' charity boosts Oxfam

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The Independent Culture

It's enough to make any book lover shudder - a beautiful first edition flung unceremoniously into a recycling bank or left to fester in a box on a rain-spattered pavement. But to Oxfam, such vast errors of judgement have just become a reason for celebration.

The charity has collected 300 donated first editions from which they are hoping to raise £50,000 at auction next month. In a world besotted with the exploits of a teenage wizard, it seems amazing that some misguided soul left an immaculate first edition of J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in a Canterbury book bank. It is expected to raise as much as £600 at the Phillips auction in Bath on 27 April.

Among the treasures on offer are original letters by George Orwell, a first edition of Winston Churchill's Ian Hamilton's March as well as Graham Greene's The Lawless Roads.

Also included are early poems by JRR Tolkien from 1924, when he was a student a Leeds University - worth an estimated £300.

The array of childhood delights features an original copy of Tolkien's 1954-55 classic The Lord of the Rings, left at a shop in the Midlands and now worth £500, as well as two Beatrix Potter first editions - The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes and The Tale of Mr Tod - each worth £300.

Rachel Macgregor, of Oxfam, explained that volunteers working in their shops received training to spot a potential antique or precious item.

Any potential rarity is then sent for appraisal at the charity's central book depot in Leeds.