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Chaucer gives Oxfam a tale to tell

PUBLISHED: 15:10 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2010

The donated book

The donated book

GENERALLY the preserve of well-thumbed Mills & Boon and woeful adventure books, charity shops are rarely the first stop for gem-hunting book collectors. But Oxfam in Temple Fortune has bucked the trend with a heavyweight addition to its shelves – a prized

GENERALLY the preserve of well-thumbed Mills & Boon and woeful adventure books, charity shops are rarely the first stop for gem-hunting book collectors.

But Oxfam in Temple Fortune has bucked the trend with a heavyweight addition to its shelves - a prized reprint of an 1896 edition of the complete works of Chaucer.

Thinking they were onto a winner, volunteer staff contacted auction house Bonhams and, to their delight, the book went under the hammer and earned them the princely sum of £936.

Appropriately enough, the lucky staff received their cheque on Christmas Eve.

"It was the best present we could have got," said shop manager Frances Haynes. "The facsimile edition was limited to 1,000 copies and is bound in original Nigerian goatskin gilt, with the covers tooled in gilt as well. When our volunteer brought the it to the shop, I couldn't believe my eyes. The person who gave it to the shop wishes to remain anonymous. She was one of the volunteers who worked at the shop regularly. She used to work in publishing. Before she moved out of London, she donated the book to the shop.

"I didn't realise it was going to raise so much money. Just when people are being so careful about money, we didn't realise people could be so generous.

"We are in the middle of the credit crunch but are still getting these incredible donations - not just bric a brac."

The shop has enjoyed other successes including a 1920s Liberty brooch sold for £2,400 and two paintings that recently fetched £200 and £450.

Kathleen Garbutt, from the books department at Bonhams' Oxford office, where the book was auctioned, said: "Lot 437 of our sale on December 2 was a book of the works of Chaucer, with an introductory essay by William S. Peterson, preserved in a solander box with a folio.

"The Folio Society edition was published in 2002, which was a facsimile of the 1896 Kelmscott Press edition. "The 1896 original was illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones and engraved on wood by WH Hooper. The edition was edited by FS Ellis and printed by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. The original estimates were £400 to £600 but in total it made £936. Obviously this was a very good result for the Oxfam branch.


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