TO Oxford schoolboy Nicholas Hardie C.S. Lewis was just a friend of his father’s who sometimes gave him books.

For Christmas in 1950 he was handed a signed copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, inscribed with the words ‘Nicholas Hardie, with love from Jack Lewis.”

It has proved to be quite a present. When Mr Hardie put the rare first edition up for sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in London last week it fetched £36,600, far in excess of its estimated value put at £12,000.

It is believed to be the only copy ever to go on sale signed with the author’s nickname, and it was bought by a private UK buyer.

Mr Hardie’s father, the Oxford University classics scholar Colin Graham Hardie, was a don at Magdalen College from 1936 until his retirement in 1973. He became a close friend of the children’s book writer, who was a fellow and English tutor at Magdalen.

Colin Hardie was also a member of the Inklings, the informal literary group, that included Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, which met regularly at the Eagle and Child pub in St Giles.

Mr Hardie, now aged 66, said: “Lewis and my father were colleagues in Oxford for many years. In his book on the Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter related that Lewis and my father read Dante’s works aloud together in weekly evening sessions just before the war.

“From 1945 onwards my father attended regular meetings of the Inklings.”

Mr Hardie, who now lives in Italy, recalled: “I don’t know how often Lewis came to our house.

“There was only one occasion I was explicitly aware of, probably because my mother put me on best behaviour.

“I vaguely remember sitting and making adult conversation, and being aware that this was C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books I had already read.”

Mr Hardie was presented with the first four Narnia books by the author as they were published. No decision has been taken on whether any of the other books will be sold.