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A magical find

31 October 2023

With only one other copy currently for sale in the world – at a bookstore in the USA – Courtney Wright, Head of New Chapters, is keen to secure the best price for ‘Stewart James -The First 50 years’.

“I’ve been in touch with The Magic Circle, to see if we have a buyer there,” he said. 

The Stewart James bible is just one of the thousands of books at New Chapters, the bibliophile’s paradise housed in a cavernous warehouse in Harrow. 

It was started 12 years ago by Arnold Levin, a volunteer who wanted to create jobs, and a purpose in life for people with disabilities. Today it has a paid workforce of ten and offers experience of the workplace to many others. 

“For everyone working here, New Chapters teaches soft work skills like timekeeping, teamwork, IT and communication. It also offers friendship, curbs loneliness and isolation and is a meaningful and purposeful activity,”  said Courtney, above.

Admittedly New Chapters is not yet in profit, but the value it brings to members is priceless.

The work at New Chapters never ends. Donated books and also DVDs, CDs and vinyls are sorted – pristine condition is essential –  catalogued and then listed on Amazon sites in the UK, the USA and Australia on Ebay and on AbeBooks, also in the USA.

Once books are purchased, there are parcels to wrap, post office couriers to arrange, queries to handle and the inevitable returns and refunds. 

All books are welcome – except Jewish prayer books. If some do arrive, they are buried in cemeteries in keeping with Jewish halacha of Shaimos. 

Books that would sell for less than £4 are sold to independent seller Ziffit, but even setting these aside, the shelves are jam packed. There are stacks of books on history, cookery and other popular topics, but also obscure volumes like the one on Japanese acrylics that actually did find a buyer. 

The rare few that do not sell are recycled into egg boxes thanks to a convenient tie up with a recycling company. 

High value books, like the pair that were signed by Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery, raised many thousands at auction. 

Courtney added: “We research as many book as we can looking for potential high value, as these will significantly boost our income. It may be corny, but my favourite saying here is: ‘Never judge a book by its cover.’”

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Pirkei Avos
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.” Kisharon looks at the person not the disability, teaching Torah, Middos and Mitzvot embracing and cherishing everybody’s special talent and bringing out the best in them.