/ Travel & Leisure

Do you have £50k sitting on your bookshelf?

old books

Harry Potter and The Hobbit have topped a list of the nation’s most valuable books. But would you part with a treasured read simply for a handsome sum?

Being something of a bookworm, I’ve got quite a motley collection of books sitting on my bookshelf – there are no ebooks in my home! There are the classics, plays and poetry anthologies I read for A level English Lit and later my degree.

Sitting alongside these are biographies, books on history, paperbacks I can’t bear to part with, a whole collection of DH Lawrence novels and short stories (it was a phase) and, naturally, a dictionary.

Among my most treasured books are the ones I read over and over as a child including tatty copies of Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and The Faraway Tree adventures.

More are stored in some forgotten corner of my parents’ attic, alongside books from their own childhoods. And now I’ve read that some of the most valuable books include a host of children’s classics, I think I might have to dig them all out!

Treasured books

According to Matthew Haley, director and head of books and manuscripts at auction house Bonhams, the one book I should really be on the look-out for is a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from 1997.

If it’s a hardback (ours* is) and has the numbers 10 to 1 printed down the back of the title page (doubtful), it could be worth a staggering £50k!

Then there are the first editions of The Hobbit and The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which could be worth £40k and £35k respectively.

But even if by some fluke I did have one of these valuable books lurking on my shelves or somewhere in my parents’ attic I doubt I’d part with it. Occasionally, I’ll pass on books to friends/family or give them to charity, but more often than not I’ll keep hold of them.

Your treasured reads

My most treasured reads are just that and, in truth, some things are worth more than money.

So what books do you treasure? What do you do with your books once you’ve read them? Would you sell a treasured read if it was worth a handsome sum?

(*I say ‘ours’ because it’s technically my nephew’s but I’m pretty sure he never read it!)

Would you sell a treasured read if it was worth £50,000?

Yes (59%, 748 Votes)

Maybe, it depends on the book (33%, 414 Votes)

No (8%, 104 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,266

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When I worked in the second-hand book trade it was very enteraining to learn what was commercial , rare, or plain trash. Fortunately my boss was happy to pass on to me the lore of several decades.

A lot of it is in the recently puplished and amusing “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Bythell.

We do read a lot and the last four weeks have bought over 250 books into the house. My wife has romances and crime, I mainly reference. Fortunately we have the room now for a large number of books and I use Librarything to keep track of them and I can also view my brothers library as we collect similar books. I use Tinycat when I lend them out. I probably have 20 books and DVD’s in “issued” but that number should grow.

Cherished author being Georgette Heyer. In a world of corruption and misery a little light relief is a welcome escape – and the proven release of endorphins : )

Just of possible interrest –

The most expensive book I have held in my hands was north of £6500 and was an atlas from the early 1700’s. It was a very very large format. It showed lower California as an island and nothing further north alond the coast.

I do have some gazetteers dated AFAIR 1815 and 1851 which are fun but they are sub £100.

Perhaps one of the most interesting boooks I sold was one of Dampiers exploration of Australasia. Published in 1940 it had ended up at a Stalugluft in Germany with the prison stamp. It was bought by a passing Aussie couple for her bookaholic sister in Queensland. What a well-travelled book.

Wow, £6500 for an atlas! When I was younger I was fascinated by maps, and particularly how in earlier centuries they would have known the shapes of countries and islands etc. It’s interesting to know that they may not have been as accurate as my young self thought. Is there any books that you wouldn’t mind spending a bit extra on?

If I could replace a valuable book with a less valuable version I would certainly sell it. A bit like valuable fragile glass or ceramics I’d be afraid of something disastrous happening to it. I

“collect” books in the sense that having acquired them, I don’t throw them away. I prefer factual books, particularly contemporary with the olden days, and find after a few years I’ve forgotten most of their contents so can re-read them I’ve an Autocar Handbook, undated, but around 1920 that includes mechanical details and driving technique for a Model T Ford. I am part way through an early 50’s book on aerodynamics and aircraft engines (including the new fangled turbo props); Harry Harper’s “25 years of flying” dated 1929, which begins with his adventures in a balloon, a dirigible flight from Farnborough, and meeting A.V.Roe at a model aeroplane competition in 1907 at the Alexandra Palace, with the Daily Mail offering a £100 prize, is a first hand account of history in the making.

Whilst I’m doubtless boring you with my interests there is something magical about such books that chart engineering progress and the ingenuity and persistence observed by those directly involved.

I agree Malcolm. I can think of very little use for a book, other than to read it, so if I could find the same book with less value then I would definitely sell. I completely understand why people want to collect first editions and rare books etc, but I think I’m a little bit heavy handed for that, I’d be too scared I’d rip the pages.

My favourite book is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, maybe if I had a valuable first edition of this I would keep it.

On a side note; you may have given me some ideas for a Christmas present for my partner, who enjoys engineering and flying. Thanks, Malcolm!

@awhittle If you haven’t looked before (but I’m sure you have) try Abebooks search, but do look hard because the same book can come with a bewildering range of prices.

I have a modest collection of books that are probably worth little or nothing. The ones I consult most often are the bound copies of a society magazine, often after having received an enquiry as to when some event happened. At one time I used a dictionary daily but nowadays the computer is more useful.

My parents had some interesting books including encyclopedias that had come from their parents’ homes and a few curious books giving advice on management of the home and outdated ways of dealing with medical problems. Unfortunately, my parents disposed of these and other books when they realised it might be time to downsize and move into a bungalow.

I love looking at old books in the same way that I enjoy playing with the latest technological gadgets but am not interested in collecting them. Like Malcolm, I’m interested in the technological development, in my case from the industrial revolution onwards. The evolution of electronic products interests me because so much of it has happened in my lifetime.

I have a fairly valuable children’s book that I have considered selling, but I suspect I’ve damaged the value as a ten-year-old Lauren decided to write her name and full address in felt-tip pen that seeped through the first six pages :-O

@ldeitz when you become famous that signed copy will assume huge value, Lauren. 🙂 Hang on to it for now.