200 year old book sale breathes new life into Derry charity shop

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The daughter of a Derry man who discovered a precious book in the local Salvation Army store has returned to the city to open the refurbished shop.

Christine Williams’ father Leslie Smyth, who was one of the people responsible for opening the charity shop in 1999 had a sharp eye for precious books.

So when a local woman donated a box of books 15 years ago, he was able to spot an obscure 200 year old Alexandre Pluchart-published Souvenirs de Saint-Pétersbourg.

The collection of lithographs by various artists dating back to 1825, was auctioned at Christie’s recently raising £4,000 - money which is now being used to breathe new life into the John Street shop.

“My mum and dad were life long Salvation Army members,” explained Christine.

“And Dad was one of the people who opened the shop. Dad saw the book and knew there was something about it, even though it was the tattiest book you ever saw. He loved rooting through the donations of books and looking for any thing of value to stop dealers snapping them up.”

In 2012 Christine and her father decided to research the book and discovered that a copy of it had been auctioned at Christie’s for £9,750.

“We were astonished,” she said.”

“When I told Dad he just about fell off his chair.

“But our book was in poor condition and its cover was torn so we didn’t get our hopes up.

“I immediately took pictures of the book and sent the information to Christie’s. We were told it could be several week before they could get back to us, but the very next morning Christie’s were in touch.”

Sadly Leslie died in 2012, just weeks before the book was put under the hammer at the world-famous auction house where it achieved £4,000.

“It’s sad Dad never got to hear about how much money the book achieved,” said Christine.

“But he’d be delighted to see the shop here and the big community around it. He’ll be looking down from heaven with pride.”

On Tuesday Christine Williams cut the ribbon at the official reopening ceremony of the shop.

Doreen Chapman, store manager said: “The shop looks fantastic now.

“We now have so much room.

“We have a great story to tell all the people who come in, about how the money was raised to do the refurbishment.

“Everybody here remembers Lesley and people still ask about him when they come into the shop.”




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