July 9, 2021

Huge collection of rare books left to Devon charity shop


Charity shops are often where we make our greatest literary discoveries—those rare, old, or otherwise difficult-to-trace volumes; those unknown authors; those old classics that spark young minds. Now, a collector of rare volumes and regular visitor to an Oxfam shop in Tavistock, Devon, has left his enormous collection of antique books to the store in his will.

As reported first by Alice Stephenson in the Okehampton Times and picked up by The Metro earlier this week, Okehampton-based book-lover and restorer Andres Nurmela—who passed away earlier this year—had always stated his intention to donate his collection of over 2000 books to the bookshop. Manager Val Sharp remembers his dedicated custom:

He was a real book lover, as well as a customer. He was interested in books and bindings, the older the better … He always looked at the more valuable books in the cabinets and frequently bought some … He never divulged the scale of his interest nor the size of his book collection so we were in for a huge surprise. This was a quite extraordinary and hugely generous bequest.

Nurmela’s collection, much of which dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, includes a first edition Mrs Beeton’s Book Of Household Management from 1866. The books, which range in value from £20 to £1000, have the potential to raise badly-needed funds for Oxfam—but must be researched and valued first, as Sharp explains:

We have worked closely with the executors to get all the books from Andres’ house in Okehampton and now have the huge task and responsibility to go through them, and to sell them on to others, through the shop or through our online shop, to raise funds for Oxfam.

The shop have now made a display of Nurmela’s extraordinary bequest. Just like independent bookshops, charity shops form a vital part of our high street, and stories such as this—where the effect of regular custom, relationship-building and a passion for books coalesce into something magical—warm the heart as much as (hopefully) the shop’s tills.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.