The Hobbit first edition donated anonymously to Chipping Norton book shop sells for £6k

The Hobbit first edition in Bonhams' catalogue. Photo: Bonhams/Oxfam
The Hobbit first edition in Bonhams' catalogue. Photo: Bonhams/Oxfam

Staff at a Chipping Norton charity shop are delighted to have raised £6,000 for Oxfam by auctioning a first edition of The Hobbit which donated anonymously with a load of other books.

Oxfam bookshop manager Tony Cooper found the J.R.R. Tolkien classic from 1937 while sorting through a large donation of mostly religious books in April.

Tony Cooper (far left) and fellow Oxfam volunteers flick through the Bonhams catalogue. Photo: Bonhams/Oxfam

Tony Cooper (far left) and fellow Oxfam volunteers flick through the Bonhams catalogue. Photo: Bonhams/Oxfam

Antiques Roadshow expert Matthew Haley, who works for Bonhams auctioneers, happened to be coming into the store a few days later and valued the book between £2,000 and £4,000.

But at the auction in London on Tuesday (November 27), the bidding pushed the sum to £6,000, despite the hardback book lacking a dust jacket.

Mr Cooper said: "It's really nice for the volunteer team here to have such a great book come into the shop but the biggest thing is to raise that amount of money for Oxfam.

"It's the first book we've had that's gone for auction so it's really nice.

"We value books everyday but not quite like this and of course it means you look even harder for the next one."

An unknown donor dropped off around 30 boxes of books to the charity shop on West Street earlier this year which were not in great condition, according to Mr Cooper.

Having stumbled upon The Hobbit, which was in noticeably better shape than the other books, it was not they checked the finer details about the book that they realised it was worth potentially a lot of money.

The copy is one of only 1,300 published in the first batch in 1937 in a rare hardback form.

Mr Cooper and a few of the team went to Bonhams auctioneers in Knightsbridge to watch the auction, which he described as 'fast and furious' as the bids kept climbing up from around the room.

Coincidentally two first edition copies of the Lord of the Rings, another of the Oxford author's best-known works, were also sold at the auction.

Mystery still surrounds the source of the donation and Mr Cooper is uncertain whether or not they knew The Hobbit was among the books.

"Whether they knew they had it or not is the question to ask but I suspect not as very often people want to get rid of books quickly," he said.

"So it's very easy to miss something like that or perhaps they did know about it and thought it would go to a good cause and may want to be generous like all of our donors."