Oldest book edges Oxfam towards historic £2 million

Dick Jennings
Dick Jennings

Thame’s Oxfam book shop has made history with the donation of its oldest ever book.

Bound as one, “The London Distiller”(1652) and “The Art of Distillation” (1653) by John French are on sale in the shop for £650.

The 350-year-old volume contains the earliest written reference to the “worm” method of distillation, which involves alcohol being condensed and vapourised in a glass coil.

“The London Distiller” describes itself as, “Exactly and truly shewing the way to draw all sorts of Spirits and Strong waters; to which is added their vertues, with additions of many excellent waters.”

The Thame shop is no stranger to exicting donations. A book containing the autographs of Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and a US President fetched £11,000. “The person who donated it was going to throw it in a skip,” explains shop manager Dick Jennens.

“We ship books all over the world, to Moscow, Beijing, Chile,” says Jennens.

“We repatriated an 1890 edition of “Around the World with a King” to Hawaii for £40.”

A rare collection of Conan Doyle books fetched £1,000, which amounts to 400 buckets for developing countries.

Since it opened 12 years ago, the shop has enjoyed phenomenal success. Jennens anticipates the £2million mark will be reached in the new year.

The donor of the historical distillation volume was aware of its value, but this is not always the case. A first edition copy of Animal Farm worth £1,000 was donated unwittingly, but when Jennens informed the donor of its value, they stuck with their decision to donate the book.