By Stephen M. Silverman
May 06, 2003 04:32 PM

A 40-year-old man in Eastern England has mysteriously stumbled upon copies of the upcoming fifth “Harry Potter” book in a field, and now the publishers of the best-selling J.K. Rowling series are investigating how the copies got there in the first place, reports Reuters.

“The matter is currently under investigation, with the suspicion that theft is involved,” Rowling’s British publisher, Bloomsbury, and the author’s agent said in a brief joint statement Tuesday.

Bloomsbury Publishing says it suspected that these early first editions of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” were stolen from a nearby printing plant. The book, the fifth in the phenomenal boy-wizard series, is not due to go on sale until June 21.

Bloomsbury said it had yet to turn the matter over to police. No further details were provided.

On Monday, sensational British tabloid the Sun reported that an unnamed father of two children had found the books in a field in the small town of Bungay, in Suffolk, and then contacted the paper with his discovery.

The paper did not disclose any details from the eagerly awaited book and claims that the copies were returned to the book publisher.

Printer Clays Ltd., which is responsible for assembling hundreds of thousands of the books, declined to comment.