News | September 5, 2023

Proof Copy of First Harry Potter Book Bought for £1 Found in School Clear Out


The uncorrected Harry Potter proof coming to auction

A rare volume marking the start of the Harry Potter phenomenon has been found in an Oxfordshire village primary school which bought it for £1 in 1997.

The ‘Uncorrected Proof Copy’ of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, one of only 200 printed by Bloomsbury in 1997, has been discovered by chance at St Kenelm’s Primary School in Minster Lovell, Witney. 
It went missing for eight years and the school feared it had been accidentally thrown away. However, it turned up during a summer tidy-up and could sell for tens of thousands of pounds at auction.

The book is such an early example that it even gets the author’s name wrong, stating ‘J A Rowling’ instead of J K Rowling. It will go under the hammer today (September 5) at Hansons Auctioneers with a guide price of £15,000-£20,000.

Jim Spencer, Head of Books at Hansons said: “This book is where it all began, the very first appearance in print of the first Harry Potter novel. The title page states the author’s name as 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 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.

“By 2002 it was realised that first edition copies of Harry Potter were become collectors’ items and finding the Proof Copy on the shelves, the school realised it might too, one day, have value. Consequently, it was removed from the shelves, packaged, and put somewhere safe. In 2015 it went missing and there was concern it had been thrown away in a clear out of old and damaged paperbacks. The book was rediscovered in 2023, and it seemed time for it to find a new owner who would properly value it.”