Tatty old book makes £30,000 for Olney branch of Oxfam!

Staff celebrating the windfall
Staff celebrating the windfall

A tatty old book donated to an Oxfam charity shop by an anonymous giver has fetched a staggering £30,000 at auction.

The donor dropped off bags of goods to the Oxfam shop in Olney. Among them was a rare book of etchings by an Italian artist.

One of the Piranesi etchings

One of the Piranesi etchings

Despite missing its front cover and being in a poor state, the book attracted the attention of the store’s volunteers.

It turned out to be one of a rare folio of 52 etchings of views of Rome, by Italian 18th century artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

This month the book was sold at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers in Cambridge.

Tim Street, who has been volunteering for Oxfam for 15 years said: “When I first saw the book, I thought it was a mess. But then, I realised the etchings were by Piranesi. We decided to auction it to see how much it would fetch – we always try to make the most of what the public donates.”

The etchings sold for more than four times the initial estimate.

Oxfam shop manager Joanne Papworth-Smith said: “This is a fantastic find which will help make a difference to people living in poverty. It is all credit to a generous donation and the resourcefulness of our shop volunteers. The book could have been easily overlooked but our volunteers invested their expertise and research skills.

“We always need donations and you never know what treasures may be hidden among your unwanted books.”

Charles Ashton, Director, Cheffins said: “Piranesi was famous for his etchings of Rome and his drawings rarely come for sale on the open market. We were pleased to have had the opportunity to offer these important works for sale and the price achieved was a strong result, which we hope will help Oxfam in its essential work.”