OXFAM volunteer Andrew Chapman has uncovered another valuable volume, but has given the book back to its original owner instead of selling it.
Two years ago, Mr Chapman, a rare books specialist for the charity’s bookshop in St Giles, found a scruffy copy of Graham Greene’s Rumour at Nightfall.
The first edition of the 1930s novel fetched about £15,000 at auction, the most expensive book Oxfam has ever sold.
Now, Mr Chapman, 43, a pilot who flies long-haul routes for Virgin, has made another lucky find after a book was donated anonymously.
In the basement of the shop, Mr Chapman discovered a 1556 Italian history of the Dukes of Ferrara called Commentario delle cose di Ferrara.
But a tiny stamp at the back of the book indicated it had once belonged to the Royal Society, in London, and Mr Chapman contacted staff so he could return it.
The Royal Society is a fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest academy in continuous existence.
After examining one of the society’s catalogues it emerged that the book had once belonged to Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk in 1681, and was one of the first books to form the Royal Society’s library.
Mr Chapman, who lives in Oxford with his wife Alison and daughter Olivia, seven, said: “This was the oldest book I have handled in more than 10 years at Oxfam and is an intrinsically beautiful book.
“Having decided to consign it to auction with a guide price of about £1,000, I was just a little disappointed to discover a tiny library stamp which simply stated ‘Royal Soc’.
“I took the book to the Royal Society’s head librarian Keith Moore, and a catalogue detailed the exact book.
“The society was delighted to get the book back and has promised to make a donation to Oxfam.”
Mr Chapman said there was only one other known copy of the book, which is kept in the British Library.
He added: “Dated 1556 and printed in Venice, this was a book created in probably the finest century of printing in its finest centre of printing.”
It is not known when the book was removed from the society’s library but Mr Chapman believes it was between 1681 and 1939, when the society moved into its present location in Carlton House Terrace, London.
Keith Moore, head of library and archive services at the Royal Society, said: “Many thousands of books go missing from libraries across the world, so it’s nice to have this one back.”