LONDON – A book of fairy tales created, handwritten and illustrated by J.K. Rowling sold for nearly 2 million pounds (US$4 million) at auction Thursday.
The buyer, London art agent Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, now has one of only seven copies of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard," which is leather bound with silver mounts.
The book had originally been expected to sell for about 50,000 pounds (US$100,000). The standing-room-only crowd at Sotheby's auction house applauded as bidding topped the 1 million pound (US$2million) mark.
The money will benefit The Children's Voice, a charity co-founded in 2005 by Rowling and Baroness Nicholson, a member of Britain's House of Lords.
Rowling, 42, watched the auction on the Web from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, and said she was ecstatic over the sale.
"This will mean so much to children in desperate need of help," the author said in a statement. "It means Christmas has come early to me."
Rowling, whose Harry Potter books have sold nearly 400 million copies and been translated into 64 languages, wrote the Beedle tales after finishing the seventh and final work in her famous series: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
"'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' is really a distillation of the themes found in the Harry Potter books, and writing it has been the most wonderful way to say goodbye to a world I have loved and lived in for 17 years," Rowling said.
She said the six other copies of the Beedle books have been given to people who were closely connected to the Harry Potter collection.
The Children's Voice campaigns for children's rights across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, where many children and teenagers grow up in institutions, often in what many activists regard as unacceptable conditions.
Rowling said the proceeds of the auction will "help institutionalized children who are in desperate need of a voice."
Sotheby's also was auctioning another work by a world famous public figure on Thursday.
"Marrakech" is a painting by Sir Winston Churchill that he gave to U.S. President Harry S. Truman in 1951, and which has remained in the Truman family ever since. The work, which shows a panorama of the Atlas Mountains in Marrakech, Morocco, was expected to fetch 300,000-500,000 pounds (US $615,000-1.02 million).
The work is being sold by Truman's daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel, who had hand-carried the painting from 10 Downing St. to the United States on behalf of her father.
Churchill, who painted as a pastime and gave away many of his works, served as Britain's prime minister from 1940-1945 and 1951-1955, and Truman was U.S. president from 1945-1953.