Hunting for Rare Books in Britain

August 29, 2006 at 9:36 am Leave a comment

Yesterday, Rare Book News ran a press release that mentioned how Oxfam had made it into an American newspaper as a rare book dealer. In fact, the article claims that Oxfam is the biggest single retailer of second-hand (including rare) books in Britain. Personally, I would never have imagined Oxfam as being even slightly involved with the rare book trade. Generally, I head on down to my local charity shops to look for cheap paperbacks that will keep me company on my tube journey in to work every day. And in this area, there is no doubt that shops like Oxfam’s are better than magic. I guess, they’re like libraries where you pay your “late back” fine up front. If you really like the book, you can keep it, and if not, you can donate it back in your own time. But all that said, all the books I’ve ever seen at Oxfam have cost under £5 and are about as far from rare as a steak cooked by my grandmother.

So I decided to look around on Oxfam’s website to see what all the hullabaloo was about. First up, was my discovery that Oxfam sells books through ABE, and that it has quite an extensive catalogue. But this still didn’t bring me much closer to any indication that Oxfam dealt with rare books. And then I discovered this press release! It seems that Oxfam has its own internal valuation service that deals with high value donations and ensures that these items fetch the best possible prices in order to maximise the charitable donation. The most exciting prospect raised by this article, from the rare book dealer’s perspective, is that some potentially interesting items are making their way into the charity world.


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