A proof copy of the first ever Harry Potter book which was bought for £1 is set to fetch £20,000 at auction after being found during a primary school clear out in Witney.

The ultra-rare Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was discovered at St Kenelm’s Primary School in Minster Lovell, Witney, which purchased it for a quid 26 years ago.

Cotswold Journal: Ultra-rare proof copy of first Harry Potter book found at Witney school which could now sell for £20,000 at auction.Ultra-rare proof copy of first Harry Potter book found at Witney school which could now sell for £20,000 at auction. (Image: SWNS)

The ‘Uncorrected Proof Copy’ was one of only 200 printed by Bloomsbury in 1997 and marked the start of the Harry Potter phenomenon.

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The book is such an early example, it even gets the author’s name wrong stating ‘J A Rowling’ instead of J K Rowling.

The school purchased the book in 1997 but feared it had accidentally been thrown away after it went missing for eight years.

However, it turned up by chance during a summer tidy-up and could now sell for tens of thousands of pounds at auction.

It will go under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall, Derbys., with a guide price of £15,000-£20,000 on September 5.

Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons said, “This book is where it all began. This is the very first appearance in print of the first Harry Potter novel.

"The title page states the author’s name as 'J A Rowling', and, on the other side, 'Joanne Rowling'.

“It's believed just 200 copies of this book were printed by Bloomsbury. This modest little paperback is the beginning of it all.

"The author's signing tours, the midnight queues outside bookshops, the movies, the merchandise - it all stems from this.

“This copy bears a stamp for St Kenelm's School. It has decided to sell the book, which was originally put on the shelves of the library for pupils to read.

"The plain cover evidently didn't inspire many, if any, takers, and so it has survived remarkably well.

"As soon as Harry Potter mania developed, the school wisely removed it from the borrowing shelves.”

Bob Alder, 75, retired St Kenelm’s School headteacher from Witney, Oxfordshire said: “The book was purchased by St Kenelm’s Primary School in 1997 from Red House Books Ltd, which held an annual sale of books from its warehouse in Witney.

"Local schools, nurseries and play groups had the first choice of books in the sale.

“Books were usually about half price, some even less, and the school would purchase something like 50 books in each of the annual sales.

"It was quite by luck that the Harry Potter was spotted in the sale. It had none of the attractiveness of a typical child’s paperback. It cost £1.

"It was not thought to have any value. However, it was known from press coverage that the story was something special, and to read extracts to the children would encourage them to own their own copy.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1