Rare WWI naval signal book found in Oxfam bookshop sold to National Museum for the Royal Navy

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A WW1 historical treasure has been sold to a museum in the city for four figures after being discovered in an Oxfam bookshop.

An extremely rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War has been snapped up by The National Museum for the Royal Navy in Portsmouth for an undisclosed four figure sum. Simon Berry, the manager of the Bath Oxfam bookshop, realised he had found something ‘quite obscure’ when he came across the book and he said that ‘it felt like you were holding a piece of history in your hands.’

The General Signals Book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of the shop. Noting the book’s connection to the Navy, Mr Berry passed the book onto volunteers, Richard Danns, who is a retired marine engineer, and Stuart Murray, who thoroughly researched the book, before placing it on Oxfam’s online shop.

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Photo issued by Oxfam of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. 

Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire Photo issued by Oxfam of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. 

Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire
Photo issued by Oxfam of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire | Oxfam/PA Wire

They quickly realised just how special the book was when several historians started to ring the store. The existence of the book is extremely rare due to the fact that signal books were usually ordered to be destroyed, once they were no longer in use. The book’s unique lead-lining would have helped the book sink in case of emergency – if the ship was in danger or captured by the enemy – so it could be thrown aboard to avoid falling into the wrong hands.

Simon, 62, said: “I found the book at the end of the year among other donations in the back room.

“I knew the book was something to take note of because it had the lead-lined cover, so it looked quite obscure.

“But I don’t think we realised quite how special it was until we started getting calls from historians telling us how important it was. It felt like you were holding a piece of history in your hands.

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“We are so pleased the book has found its way into the right hands with the museum and has helped raise so much money for Oxfam at the same time.

Photo issued by Oxfam of (from left) Stuart Murray, Simon Berry and Richard Danns who made the discovery of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War, which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. 
PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire Photo issued by Oxfam of (from left) Stuart Murray, Simon Berry and Richard Danns who made the discovery of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War, which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. 
PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire
Photo issued by Oxfam of (from left) Stuart Murray, Simon Berry and Richard Danns who made the discovery of a General Signal Book 1917, a very rare lead-lined naval signal book from the First World War, which has been bought by a museum after being found in an Oxfam bookshop. The book, which is filled with confidential signals, was found with a box of donations at the back of Oxfam's Bath bookshop by the shop manager Simon Berry. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Oxfam/PA Wire | Oxfam/PA Wire

“It’s definitely not every day you handle or sell something of that value.”

The book is now in The National Museum for the Royal Navy’s collection following its unique sale. Heather Johnson, from the museum, said: “Signal books are quite rare as copies were officially ordered to be destroyed when they went out of use.

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