Retired Glastonbury school librarian’s chance meeting with J K Rowling could net auction windfall

By Laura Linham

30th Jan 2023 | Local News

A chance meeting with a children's author 23 years ago could spark an auction windfall for a retired school librarian. 

 In 1999 Janette Tuckwell was working at Millfield Preparatory School in Glastonbury when she received a call from Waterstones bookshop in Wells.

 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. 

 "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. 

 "I took a photo of her with the pupils and she signed two books for me. They have been gathering dust on a bookshelf 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 paperback of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. They will be offered 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 worldwide 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." 

The signed Harry Potter books will be offered in Hansons Auctioneers' March 7 Harry Potter and Library Auction. To find out more, or to arrange a book valuation, email: [email protected] 

J.K. Rowling is considered one of the most prolific and successful authors of all time for writing the fictional Harry Potter series, but her real-life opinions have been marred with controversy for her views regarding the rights of transgender people.


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