The humble chair JK Rowling sat on while writing the first two books of the Harry Potter series was auctioned in New York City on Wednesday for $394,000, the AP reports. An anonymous private collector made the winning bid, Heritage Auctions says. The chair is one of four mismatched chairs given to the then little-known writer for her flat in Edinburgh, Scotland. She used it while writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The unassuming 1930s-era oak chair with a replacement burlap seat decorated with a red thistle sat in front of Rowling's typewriter when she was "writing two of the most important books of the modern era," says Heritage's director of rare books. The chair sold before—once by Rowling to benefit a charity in 2002, where it fetched $21,000, and on eBay in 2009, where it brought $29,000.
Before Rowling donated the chair in 2002, she painted the words "You may not/find me pretty/but don't judge/on what you see" on the stiles and splats. She also signed the backrest in gold and rose colors and wrote "I wrote/Harry Potter/while sitting/on this chair" on the seat. The word "Gryffindor," the Hogwarts house of Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, is spelled out on a cross stretcher. The chair is accompanied by an original typed and signed letter Rowling wrote prior to the first auction. The seller, Gerald Gray, of Worsley, England, bought the chair in 2009 after his daughter, a Harry Potter fan, saw it on eBay. He says the winning bid far exceeded his expectations and that "I plan to donate 10% to JK Rowling's charity, Lumos, because that's what she did in the first place." He says he would like to see the new buyer display it somewhere children could see it, perhaps in a museum or theme park. (Rowling received a pretty recent rejection letter.)