Christian Aid Book Sale returns with first edition George Orwell novels and a Victoria Crowe painting

The annual Christian Aid Book sale was launched this week by this year's patron, journalist Kirsty Wark, ahead of the official public opening on Saturday 11 May.

Kirsty Wark with a copy of the George Orwell 1984 book
Kirsty Wark is this year's Christian Aid Book Sale patron

The Christian Aid book sale has grown from small beginnings 48 years ago with a few books on one table in the church courtyard in George Street to becoming what is believed to be the biggest charity book sale in the UK and one of the largest in the world.

Star items this year include first editions of George Orwell's 1984 (1949) and ‘Animal Farm' (1945) plus a signed, limited first edition of TS Eliot's Dante (1929).

The renowned artist Victoria Crowe has also generously donated her painting ‘In Santa Trinita, Florence'.

Volunteers and experts in their hundreds from as far afield as the United States have been keenly sorting and pricing some 60,000 donated books and collectables. Buyers will be queuing from the early hours on Saturday 11 May, eager to uncover a rare find.

The patron for this year is the journalist Kirsty Wark. Patrons from previous years include John Byrne, Ian Rankin, Julia Donaldson, Alexander McCall Smith, AL Kennedy, Liz Lochhead, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, Aileen Paterson and Alexander Stoddart.

Kirsty Wark said: "Books fire the imagination and are also a great source of solace. I am so delighted to support the book sale and I hope the crowds rush in in search of a good read."

A remarkable library of Scottish books has been donated to Christian Aid by the family of Margaret Street MBE, founder of the Leith Civic Trust, who died last year.

She was a notable Scot who made a unique contribution to Scottish life and culture in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Rev Dr Rosie Magee, minister elect at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church in Edinburgh, holding the Victoria Crowe 'In Santa Trinita' painting

Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, locum minister at St Andrew's and St George's West Church, said:

"I am in awe at the scale of the operation to organise this extraordinary book sale, but it is so much more than a book sale.

"This is an enterprise delivered by people who also want to change the world. Every penny raised is used by Christian Aid to feed the hungry and address the systemic causes of poverty in the developing world.

"When you come to this sale you will take home any number of good books, but you will also be doing untold good in the life of some of the most vulnerable people in the world."

Dr Chalmers is the convener of the World Mission Council, which is the Church of Scotland's principal link with Christian Aid.

James Holloway, the sale's art convener and former director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said:

"I am really delighted that Victoria Crowe has given the sale one of her very beautiful watercolours.

"Crowe is one of Scotland's greatest and most popular artists and is being celebrated this summer with two exhibitions in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh City Art Centre and The Scottish Gallery."

The Christian Aid Sale takes place from 10am on Saturday 11 May until Friday 17 May at St Andrew's and St George's West Church, George Street, Edinburgh.

The annual sale also includes antiques, ephemera, pictures, records, sheet music and toys and has raised more than £10million for Christian Aid.