Very early version of JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book fails to sell at auction

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A proof of the original Harry Potter book has failed to sell at auction after it was found in a primary school.

Earlier this summer, an uncorrected proof of JK Rowling’s debut Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was rediscovered at St Kenelm’s Primary School in Minster Lovell, Witney, Oxfordshire.

The proof, which was originally bought for £1 in 1997 and is one of just 200 printed by Bloomsbury before the books became popular, went to auction at Hansons Auctioneers on Tuesday (5 September), but the bid of £13,000 fell short of the reserve price.

Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons Auctioneers, said the proof will be reauctioned in November, and described the failure to sell it for the expected price of £20,000 as “disappointing”

He said: “Ultimately, if we’d sold it for too little, that would have been wrong. It fully deserves to reach the top end of £15,000 to £20,000. With such a good cause, I wanted to get a big chunk of money for the school.

“The plain look to it is because it was just before Harry Potter took off – that’s the magic of it.”

Explaining how the book came to be purchased, the school’s former head teacher Bob Alder, who rediscovered the copy, said the publishers sold the proof in a bookshop sale to provide an “early taste” of Rowling’s wizarding world.

Alder said the school decided to auction the book in an attempt to “further develop” its students’ love of literature through updated equipment.

Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons Auctioneers, holds a proof copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Press (Hansons Auctioneers)
Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons Auctioneers, holds a proof copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Press (Hansons Auctioneers)

In July, a battered Harry Potter book bought for just 30p sold for £10,500, after it turned out to be an extremely rare first edition.

The copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was snapped up after a Wolverhampton library withdrew it from use, and it was revealed to be one of only 500 published by Bloomsbury in 1997 and one of just 300 sent to libraries around the UK.

Harry Potter is one of the most bankable franchises of all time, estimat to have a a total of $25bn.