Harry Potter worked his magic in real life on September 25, as a first-edition copy of the first JK Rowling novel beat pre-auction estimates to fetch £27,500.
A hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone topped estimates when it went under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions on September 25. The book, a first-printing of the JK Rowling novel, sold to a UK buyer for a massive £27,500. The figure, which is more than 2,500 times the original cover price of £10.99, went above pre-auction estimates of £15,000 to £20,000.
Published in 1997, the first printings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone are like a ‘Holy Grail’ for collectors, according to rare-book website Abe Books. Copies are so hard to find that they have even whetted the appetite of thieves — last year, one was stolen from a shop in Thetford, Norfolk, alongside other first-edition books.
That’s because Rowling was an unpublished author and her manuscript had been widely rejected when Bloomsbury’s editor Barry Cunningham decided to give it a shot, after receiving enthusiastic feedback from the eight-year-old daughter of the company’s chairman. As it often happens with new writers, only a very small run was published — 500 hardback books and 5.150 paperbacks — all at the same time.
‘This is the cornerstone of all the Harry Potter books, and, as it was only produced in hardback in a very small quantity, it’s very sought after,’ explains Clive Moss, Head of Books and Manuscripts at Chiswick Auctions. Plus, he continues, ‘most copies were sent to schools and read to pieces.’ By contrast, the Chiswick Auction tome was a good-quality hardback, making it particularly desirable.
‘This copy, although with some restoration, was better than average, and thus achieved a very good, better-than-expected result in our auction yesterday,’ Mr Moss explains. ‘I have now spoken to the vendor, who is also thrilled with the result, so now we have a number of very happy people.’
But the early imprints of the book are fascinating for reasons beyond their rarity — mistakes. On page 53 (above), Harry is perusing the list of equipment to buy with Hagrid and, among the necessary tools, there is, of course, a wand — but in the first issue of the first edition, it appears twice, at the beginning and at the end of the list.
And on the back cover, the reviews by David Morton (of London’s children shop Daisy & Tom), publisher and author Fiona Walker, and Lindsey Fraser of Book Trust Scotland are described as acclaims for Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone — a typo that went through undetected. Interestingly, they sit alongside the image of a wizard that doesn’t appear to chime with any of the descriptions within the book and was apparently inspired by the illustrator’s own father.
These first printings are also the only Harry Potter books where the copyright is attributed to Joanne Rowling in the small print, the name JK having been preferred for the cover and title page because it sounded more masculine and the publishers deemed the series to be geared primarily towards boys. Later editions named J.K. Rowling as the author throughout the book.
While hugely successful, however, yesterday’s sale hardly set the record price for a first-issue copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This belongs to a signed edition sold by Christie’s New York last year to a buyer who paid more than £127,000 to secure the book.