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First edition of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy sells for £12,000 at Oxfam’s book auction

Posted by Sophie Bowell

27th Jun 2012

First edition of Samuel Beckett's Murphy

A rare first edition of Samuel Beckett's Murphy has sold for a massive £12,000, doubling its estimate and raising vital funds for Oxfam at the charity's annual Bonhams book auction. Murphy was the first novel by the Irish author and dramatist, published in 1938. The auctioned book is one of only 1500 copies printed and one of the few that has survived with its original dust jacket, further adding to its value.  

The book, donated to the Oxfam Books and Music shop in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, was spotted in a box of books by the store's book specialist, Geoff Smith.

He said "I'm absolutely delighted at the amount the book has raised for Oxfam. I knew as soon as I saw it that it might be important but after some initial research on the internet it was clear that it was rare and so likely to be valuable. We then contacted Oxfam's expert team as well as Bonhams and soon realised that it was something very special. It's wonderful that we were able to maximise the money made from this extremely generous donation and so raising as much money as possible for Oxfam's projects fighting poverty around the world."

The novel was one of several rare and valuable books donated to Oxfam throughout the year which were auctioned at Bonhams in Oxford yesterday. The sale raised a total of over £21,000 for the charity, which could pay for six huge water tanks providing tens of thousands of litres of clean, safe water to hundreds of families in places like Niger, West Africa.

Other highlights from the auction included:

  • Helmut Newton's limited edition Sumo. Sold for £1,000. This huge photobook (measuring 50 x 70 cm) has become a prized collector's item and covers every aspect of Newton's outstanding career in photography from his stunning fashion photographs, to his nudes and celebrity portraits.
  • A collection of four limited edition songbooks by A. A. Milne, signed by all the contributors sold for an impressive £2,500.
  • A Balloon View of London [as seen from Hampstead] - a beautiful, large folding lithograph map of the capital, dating from 1851. Sold for £900.


Notes to editors:

  • Oxfam has 148 specialist bookshops and sells books in nearly all of its 685 shops
  • Oxfam's shop network is supported by over 22,000 volunteers, with over 4000 specialist book volunteers staffing Oxfam's bookshops
  • One paperback sold by Oxfam could buy two books for a school in Somaliland and just £1.75 could buy books and pens for a school in the Philippines
  • The first Oxfam bookshop was opened in St Giles, Oxford, in 1987
  • Oxfam's book festival Bookfest will take place on 2-15 July 2012. Bookfest is an annual initiative, now in its fourth year, which celebrates the central role books play in people's lives, and the impact that buying a book from Oxfam can have on the lives of people living in poverty around the world. Over the course of a fortnight, a whole host of book related events will take place in Oxfam shops across the UK, featuring a range of activities for the whole family.

Blog post written by Sophie Bowell

More by Sophie Bowell