Signed Harry Potter books could cast spell in sale

A chance meeting with Harry Potter author JK Rowling 23 years ago could spark an auction windfall for a retired school librarian in an upcoming Derbyshire sale.

In 1999, Janette Tuckwell was working at Millfield Preparatory School in Glastonbury when she received a call from Waterstones book shop in Wells, Somerset. Janette, who lives near Bristol,  said: “They told me they had a children’s author coming  to the shop and would I Iike to arrange for pupils to come along. I said yes and, together with an English teacher, took a Year 6 class of 10 and 11 years old to the store.

Hansons expert Jim Spencer with Harry Potter books signed by JK Rowling
Jim Spencer with the signed Harry Potter books – credit Emma Errington Hansons

“The children’s author turned out to be J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books!  At that time, her books  were popular but the Potter phenomenon hadn’t gone global.

“She was brilliant with the pupils. I remember being very impressed by her dedication and the way she handled the children’s questions. If they asked something about the books she would refer to a character or plot line to make sure they had read it. She was very thorough and professional.

JK Rowling with school pupils at a book signing
JK Rowling with pupils in 1999 – Credit Hansons

“I took a photo of her with the pupils and she signed two books for me. They have been gathering dust on a book shelf for more than 20 years  but, after reading an article about how sought after Potter books are, I decided to contact Hansons Auctioneers.”

The news was good. Jim Spencer, Hansons’ books expert, valued Janette’s autographed books at £1,500-£2,000.  They are a first edition, 23rd issue paperback of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and a first edition, first issue paperback of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They will be offered, together with the original photo of the world-famous author with pupils at Waterstones in Hansons’ March 7 Harry Potter and Library Auction.

Jim said: “In a market completely flooded with fake Rowling signatures, it’s lovely to have such great provenance with these signed books. It’s nice to think of those excited children going to meet J K Rowling in 1999. It highlights just what makes Harry Potter so special – not many books get children queuing up to meet the author.

“The original photograph is proof of the event, which means collectors around the world can bid with confidence, but it’s also a heart-warming memento of a reading craze – before any of the films had been made.

“With so much ‘screen time’ these days, eyes glued to vloggers unboxing expensive products or chasing each other around mansions, it’s hard to believe kids were so desperate for a book, a nourishing story, words on paper that can do so much for the imagination and really expand a mind and soul. What a remarkable phenomenon Harry Potter really is.”

Janette, who has two grown-up children and worked for 21 years as a school librarian at Millfield, recalls the huge impact Harry Potter books had on pupils in the late 1990s and beyond.

She said: “The Potter books were a godsend to libraries. They got so many kids into reading. They had to keep up as they liked to discuss the plot with their friends. I read the first couple of Potter books and enjoyed them. Everyone was reading them.”