20th-Century American Bestsellers


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ResearcherAuthor: Title
Jordan BrownRowling, JK: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description
1. First Edition Publication InformationJ.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 1998.

(Note: much of the copyright information has changed between the second, twenty-second, and fifty-second printings, which are the printings of the first edition that I am examining, printed in 1998, 1999, and 2001, respectively. The second printing, I found, is identical in every way to the first printing, save for the small line of numbers at the bottom of the copyright page indicating that it is a second printing. Where discrepancies between the three printings I have arise, they will be noted in the appropriate category.)

Text copyright © 1997 by J.K. Rowling
Illustrations copyright © 1998 by Mary GrandPre (as of second and twenty-second printings)
Illustrations by Mary GrandPre copyright © 1998 Warner Bros. (in fifty-second printing)
In addition, by the fifty-second printing, the following copyright statement had been added to the copyright page:
HARRY POTTER and all related characters and elements are trademarks of Warner Bros.
This presumably indicates the purchasing of this material by Warner Bros. in connection with the film rights.

First British edition was published under the title Harry Potter and the Philosopherís Stone. London: Bloomsbury Childrenís Books, 1997. The text of this edition is slightly different, as small alterations were made by Scholastic Press in Americanizing the text for the first American edition (for instance, changing the word ìfootballî to ìsoccerî on page 79).
2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?The first edition is published in hardcover, bound in hard cardboard material, though a portion of the binding is covered in cloth (see ìDescription of bindingî). It is also covered with a dust jacket (see description in ìOtherî).
3. Image of Cover Art A13191020924004358.jpg
4. Pagination160 leaves, pp. [i-iv] v-vi [vii-viii] 1-309 [310-312]

Implied page numbers 310-312 are so numbered because page 311 contains select production information. This led me to believe that these pages ought to have page numbers assigned, rather than simply stating a number of unnumbered pages at the end of the book.

The page numbers appear Ωî above the bottom of the page in the center, are bracketed on either side by small illustrations of six-pointed stars, and are set in a typeface different from that of the text. This unique font matches that of the headers which list the chapter number and title on the top of each page, as well as the titles at the beginning of each chapter and many of the headings on the title pages at the beginning of the book. Further discussion of the typography can be found in the entry for Question 8.
5. Edited and/or Introduced? The book does not mention any editor, nor does it have an introduction. Research revealed that the first American editionís senior editor at Scholastic was Arthur Levine.

The authorís dedication, located on the verso of the title page above the copyright information, reads as follows:
FOR JESSICA, WHO LOVES STORIES, | FOR ANNE, WHO LOVED THEM TOO; | AND FOR DI, WHO HEARD THIS ONE FIRST.

On page 311 (unnumbered) there is a note headed by the logo for the Arthur A. Levine imprint of Scholastic Press, which describes some details of the bookís production, information which will be noted later under the appropriate categories.
6. Illustrated? The illustrations were done by Mary GrandPre, and are featured throughout the book as vignettes. The art is all black and white, and, according to the production notes, was created using pastels on toned printmaking paper. There is one illustration on the title page. The reminder of the illustrations are located on the first page of each chapter, and feature an object or scene from that chapter. There are seventeen in all, located on pages 1, 18, 31, 46, 61, 88, 113, 131, 143, 163, 180, 194, 215, 228, 242, 262, and 288.

The large full-color illustration on the dust jacket is also by Mary GrandPre, and was created with the same method as is listed above.
7. Sample IllustrationA17191020923124021.jpg
8. General AppearancePage and text presentation: the size of the page is 226mm x 150mm; the size if the text, from the header at the top of each page to the page number at the bottom is 195mm x 108mm. The margins at either side of the page are of equal size, but the margin at the top of the page is a bit larger than that at the bottom. All, however, are generous, as is the space between lines, which makes the book very easy to read, a concern of the publisher presumably because the book is intended primarily for children. The size of the type is 118R, and there are twenty-eight lines per full-text page, both of which also add to the bookís easy readability.

The type, according to the production notes on page 311, is set in 12-point Adobe Garamond, ìa typeface based on the sixteenth-century type designs of Claude Garamond, redrawn by Robert Slimbach in 1989.î The page headings, page numbers, chapter titles, and heading material on the title page, copyright page, and table of contents are set in another font, one that is identical to the type on the spine of the book. This typeface can be seen on the sample images of the chapter and title pages.

Because the book was written very recently, all of the copies I have are in relatively perfect condition.
9. Image of Sample Chapter PageA19191020923124427.jpg
10. Description of PaperThe text is printed on wove paper. The edges are straight all around. The texture is smooth, and the paper stock is consistent throughout. The paper is an even, light, creamy white. The first edition has been printed relatively recently, and so the three copies I am examining are all very new-looking, with no discoloration, stains, or tearing evident on any of the specimens.
11. Description of BindingThe book has a colorful dust jacket, a description of which can be found in the entry for Question 15.

The binding material is hard cardboard, a conclusion drawn from the fact that the majority of the cover is paper, which then turns to cloth, the material that makes up the spine and extends to meet the paper portion of the cover 5cm from the spine on both the front and the back. The paper portion is purple, with alternating raised and flat diamonds stamped on it. This stamping is not present on the cloth portion of the cover, which is red, calico-textured, not embossed. There are no words nor illustrations on either the front or back cover.

The spine, which is of the red calico-textured cloth, has gilt lettering stamped in it. On the second printing, the information reads as follows:

J.K. ROWLING | [horizontal rule] | HARRY POTTER | AND THE SORCERERíS STONE | [lantern illustration logo] | ARTHUR A. | LEVINE BOOKS | [horizontal rule] | SCHOLASTIC PRESS

The words are all written horizontally, except for the title of the book, which is written vertically. In addition, the letters are stamped flat on the spine.

On the twenty-second and fifty-second printings, there are a few changes to the spine. First, the first line has been changed from J.K. ROWLING to simply ROWLING. Second, between the first horizontal rule and the bookís title, the words YEAR 1, printed inside a concave square, have been added to the spine. Also, the lettering on these copies is sunk into the cloth material, rather than just being printed on it.

The endpapers are dark green, and extend into leaves of a heavier paper stock than the rest of the paper in the book.
12. Title Page TranscriptionTitle page (recto) transcription (the material on the title page is printed over checkered gray diamonds, which simulate the effect of the alternating diamonds stamped on the cover; see image):

HARRY POTTER | AND THE SORCERERíS STONE | [black and white illustration, depicting Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry] | BY | J.K. ROWLING | ILLUSTRATIONS BY MARY GRANDPRE | [lantern illustration logo] | ARTHUR A. LEVINE BOOKS | AN IMPRINT OF SCHOLASTIC PRESS


Copyright page (verso) transcription, all lines centered on the page (this transcription is from the second printing. Differences evident in the twenty-second and fifty-second printings are noted following):

FOR JESSICA, WHO LOVES STORIES, | FOR ANNE, WHO LOVED THEM TOO; | AND FOR DI, WHO HEARD THIS ONE FIRST. | [collection of small stars] | Text copyright © 1997 by J.K. Rowling | Illustrations copyright © 1998 by Mary GrandPre | All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc., | Publishers since 1920 | by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. | SCHOLASTIC, SCHOLASTIC PRESS, ARTHUR A. LEVINE BOOKS, and associated logos | are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc. | No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted | in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, | without written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permissions, write | to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Rowling, J.K. | Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone / by J.K. Rowling | p. cm. | Summary: Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy | with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School | of Witchcraft and Wizardry. | ISBN 0-590-35340-3 | [1. Fantasy ó Fiction. 2. Witches ó Fiction. 3. Wizards ó Fiction. | 4. Schools ó Fiction. 5. England ó Fiction.] I. Title. | PZ7.R79835Har 1998 | [Fic] ó dc21 97-39059 | 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 8 9/9 0/0 01 02 | Printed in the U.S.A. 23 | First American edition, October 1998

In the twenty-second printing, the writing is identical, except for the last three lines, which reflect information unique to the printing, and read as follows:

30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 9/9 0/0 01 02 | Printed in the U.S.A. 37 | First American edition, October 1998

In the fifty-second printing, the material is basically the same, except for a few more changes. First, the illustrations copyright line has been changed to the following:

Illustrations by Mary GrandPre copyright © 1998 Warner Bros.

Second, the lines following ìPublishers since 1920î have been changed to read:

SCHOLASTIC, SCHOLASTIC PRESS, and the LANTERN LOGO | are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.

Third, the following line has been added in between the ones just quoted and the copyright statement copied above:

HARRY POTTER and all related characters and elements are trademarks of Warner Bros.

These alterations which reflect copyright transmittal to Warner Bros. are presumably related to their acquisitions of material with the bookís film rights. Finally, the last three lines have been changed to reflect the details of the fifty-second printing, reading as follows:

57 56 55 54 53 52 01 02 03 04 | Printed in the U.S.A. 10 | First American edition, October 1998

13. Image of Title PageA113191020923124021.jpg
14. Manuscript HoldingsThe manuscripts are held by the author at her home in Edinburgh, Scotland.
15. OtherThe book has a dust jacket, a description of which follows (again, this is the second-printing dust jacket. Differences in the subsequent printings will be noted afterwards):

The jacket has on it a large full-color illustration by Mary GrandPre, who also did the illustrations within. The illustration continues around the spine and the back cover and onto both flaps, and depicts a variety of scenes and characters from the story. The front cover reads, in golden raised letters set in that now-ubiquitous font ìHarry Potterî; ìAND THE SORCERERíS STONEî is set below, seemingly as a part of the stone edifice in the illustration. At the bottom, in the same golden lettering but not raised, is the authorís name, J.K. ROWLING.

The writing on the spine is identical to that which is set on the spine of the book itself, transcribed above, in flat, gold lettering.

The back cover has a UPC bar code in the bottom left-hand corner, and in the top right, a quotation about the book:

*ìHARRY POTTER | could assume the same near-legendary status | as Roald Dahl's Charlie, of chocolate factory fame.î | ó The Guardian, London

On the front inside flap, the copy reads as follows:

$16.95 | HARRY POTTER | has never been the star of a Quidditch team, | scoring points while riding a broom far above | the ground. He knows no spells, has never | helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a | cloak of invisibility. | All he knows is a miserable life with the | Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and | their abominable son, Dudleyóa great big | swollen spoiled bully. Harryís room is a | tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he | hasnít had a birthday party in eleven years. | But all that is about to change when | a mysterious letter arrives by owl mes- | senger: a letter with an invitation to | an incredible place that Harryó | and anyone who reads about | himówill find un- | forgettable. | For itís there that he | finds not only friends, | aerial sports, and magic in | everything from classes to | meals, but a great destiny | thatís been waiting for himÖ | if Harry can survive the | encounter.

The back flap copy reads:

J.K. ROWLING | was a struggling single mother when she wrote | the beginnings of Harry Potter and the Sorcererís | Stone on scraps of paper at a local cafÈ. But her | efforts soon paid off, as she received an unprece- | dented award from the Scottish Arts Council | enabling her to finish the book. Since then, the | debut novel has become an international phe- | nomenon, garnering rave reviews and major | awards, including the British Book Awards | Childrenís Book of the Year, and the Smarties | Prize. | Ms. Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her | daughter. | Jacket art by Mary GrandPre | Jacket design by Mary GrandPre and David Saylor | [lantern illustration logo] | ARTHUR A. LEVINE BOOKS | An Imprint of Scholastic Press | 555 Broadway, New York | New York 10012

The colors of the second printing are much more rich and vivid than either of the other two copies. On the twenty-second printing, the jacket is almost identical, except for the fact that the authorís name on the front and all the writing on the spine has been raised. Note the inconsistency in the twenty-second printing between the jacket spine, which matches the earlier printings, and the spine of the actual book, which matches the later printings. Also, the price, located on the inside front flap, has been increased to $17.95, and the quotation on the back has been replaced with another:

*ìA DELIGHTFUL | award-winning debut from an author who dances | in the footsteps of P.L. Travers and Roald Dahl.î | óPublisherís Weekly, starred review

On the fifty-second printing, the spine on the jacket has been set to match that of the book itself. Everything else matches the twenty-second printing jacket, except for the price, which has again been raised, to $19.95.

In terms of copy-specific information, the second printing that I am examining is autographed by the author on the blank page facing the title page.

Assignment 2: Publication History
1. Other Editions: Besides the hardcover first edition, Scholastic Inc. has published three other editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone to date:

1. Scholastic Inc. published a trade paperback edition of the book in 1999. The main distinguishing features include a paperback binding and a smaller trim size (19.1cm x 13.2cm). Other than the global size change, the pagination, typesetting, illustrations (including the cover illustration), and layout are all exactly the same, with identical illustrations. Other notable changes include addition of ìThe extraordinary New York Times bestsellerî to the top of the front cover, and the trademark Scholastic red bar logo to the bottom; the inside front flap illustration and text added to the back, as well as an extended list of acclamations; the replacement of the blank front leaf in the hardcover with two pages of ìPraise for J.K. Rowlingís Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stoneî; and the addition of an advertisement for the second book in the series (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) in the back of the book. Finally, this edition was originally released at $5.99, but as of the forty-second printing, the price has been increased to $6.99. Also, it should be noted that whereas the hardcover first edition of the book was printed under Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Press, Scholastic Inc. in general is noted as the publisher for this paperback edition.

2. Scholastic Inc. published a ìCollectorís Editionî of the book in 2000. While the typesetting is identical to that of the first edition, there are a number of significant changes. First, the book is bound in green leather, with the title and authorís name elaborately embossed in silver. A small detail of the original cover illustration has been placed in the center of this edition. The paper, while of similar stock to that of the first edition, has been edged in gold. In addition, there has been added to his edition a black and white line illustration done by the author at the beginning of the book, and a more elaborate set of production notes at the end. This edition is priced at $75.00.

3. Scholastic Inc. published a mass market paperback edition in 2001. This edition is quite different from the first edition. The trim size, most notably, is significantly scaled down (17.1cm x 10.4cm). In addition, the cover has been completely changed; it is now a dark blue, adorned on the front and back with small black and white illustrations that had originally appeared at the opening of chapters in the first edition, and the words have been set differently on the cover and on the spine. A summary of the book has been removed from the cover completely, replaced by praise for the book, and hyping for its legendary status. The paper is of much lower quality, the pagination is different (the main text of the book covers 384 pages, as opposed to 312 in the first edition), the type is of a lower quality and set differently. There has been added more praise of the book to the front and more advertisements to the back (by this time, four Harry Potter books had been released, and they are all represented in the advertisement). Finally, and most noticeably different, illustrations have been removed completely from this edition. Like the trade paperback edition, this book is also published generally by Scholastic Inc., and is also priced at $6.99. One would surmise that this edition of the book was released to complement the release of the film adaptation in November of 2001 (this edition was released in the same month). A scanned image of the cover of this edition can be found under question 2.

Scholastic and/or the author have authorized the production of other editions of the book, published by other companies. These other editions include alternate bindings, alternate formats, and alternate languages, and are noted under the appropriate question.
2. Image of Cover Art A22191021008191333.jpg
4. First Edition printings or impressions?I could find no definitive number of first edition printings in my research. The book is still in print, and so I assumed that the most up-to-date numbers would be found researching periodicals, but I could not find any information as of this time (October 2002). I did, however, find that there had been nine printings by the end of 1998, at which time the book had been out for four months. A perusal of a chain and an independent bookstore also provided some information; the latest printing I could find was the fifty-second, printed at some point in 2002. As far as I can tell, this is the most recent printing.
5. Editions from other publishers?Other print editions in English:

1. The original British hardcover edition, Harry Potter and the Philosopherís Stone, was published by Bloomsbury Childrenís Books, London, in 1997.
2. Bloomsbury Childrenís Books published a trade paperback edition of the same title simultaneously with the hardcover release.
3. Bloomsbury Books released an ìadult paperbackî edition in 1998. This edition has a different cover, one with which an adult would presumably not be embarrassed to be caught on the Underground.
4. An American large print edition was published by Thorndike Press in 1999.
5. An American edition in library binding was published by BT Bound in 2001.
6. Last date in print? As of October 2002, all editions of Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone are still in print.
7. Total copies sold? Total copies sold (as of January 2002, according to Publishers Weekly): 16,709,111
Total hardcover copies: 5,977,304
Total trade paperback copies: 9,131,807
Total mass market paperback copies: 1,500,000
Total collectorís edition copies: 100,000 (this number reflects only copies sold through 2000. Because this particular edition was not a bestseller, I could not find any sales figures for 2001.)

These numbers were calculated by adding sales figures from 1998 through 2000 to sales figures for 2001, as provided by Publishers Weekly. These numbers reflect only American sales. Worldwide sales figures for Sorcerer's Stone were not found, but it has been speculated that there have been approximately 120,000,000 Harry Potter books sold worldwide by 2002 (this includes all four books in the series to date).
8. Sales by year?Hardcover first edition sales, 1998: 136,000
Hardcover first edition sales, 1999: 3,100,000
Hardcover first edition sales, 2000: 1,800,000
Hardcover first edition sales, 2001: 890,000

Trade paperback sales, 1999: 3,200,000
Trade paperback sales, 2000: 3,400,000
Trade paperback sales, 2001: 2,500,000

Collectorís edition sales, 2000: 100,000

Mass market paperback sales, 2001: 1,500,000

There does appear to be a certain discrepancy between the sales figures for the individual years added together and for that given for the total in question 7. This discrepancy can most likely be accounted for in the fact that the year-end sales figures seem to be approximations, while the total numbers in question 7 take into account a copy number from a Publishers Weekly list of the top-selling childrenís books of the century. Scholastic most likely submitted a more accurate number for this list, and only approximations for the year-end numbers. This accounts for the discrepancy.

It is also interesting to note that while Harry Potter had only sold 136,000 copies through the end of 1998, it had 275,00 already in print by that time, and 350,000 sold by the end of March 1999, indicating the rapid growth in sales it enjoyed though 1999.
9. Advertising copy: The following ad (of which significant excerpts are transcribed) was found in Publisherís Weekly, April 15, 1999, on page 114:

Thank you, Booksellers, for working your Magic! | Youíve made | Harry Potter | Magically Appear | on Bestseller Lists | Everywhere! | 13 weeks on | The New York Times | Bestseller List | 1999 Abby Award Nominee | [Extensive quotation from the New York Times Book Review] | Look for the celebrated sequel, | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - coming soon!

The ad is apparently playing up the presence of Harry Potter on significant bestseller lists, and it targeting the booksellers, particularly independent booksellers, as it seems in this ad. An image of this advertisement can be found under question 10.
10. Image of sample advertisementA210191021008191333.jpg
11. Other promotion? The majority of ads placed in trade magazines target booksellers, and this is where the majority of advertisements were concentrated by the publisher. Scholastic prides itself on its relationship with booksellers, and this objective is reflected in their advertising. J.K. Rowling also did extensive touring in the United States in support of this title, signing at both chain and independent bookstores. Also, a large Harry Potter section was added to the Scholastic website in 1999 to support the fever growing about the books. It continues to exist today, among myriad Harry Potter fan sites. In addition, the book has gained even more promotion through Warner Bros.' promotion for the film version of the book, which has its own website as well (www.harrypotter.com).
12. Performances in other media? Performances in other media:

1. A film version of Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone was released in 2001 by Warner Bros. It was directed by Chris Columbus, written by Steven Kloves (with extensive aid from J.K. Rowling), and starred Daniel Radcliffe as the title character. It has subsequently been released on VHS and DVD video.
2. An audio book of Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone was published in 1999 by Listening Library, a division of Random House Audio Publishing Group. The recording is unabridged, and is read by Jim Dale. He received a Grammy nomination for his reading. It has been released on tape and compact disc.
3. A trading card game based on the book was created by Wizards of the Coast in 2001.
4. A video game entitled Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone was created by Electronic Arts and was released in 1999 for a variety of console and computer platforms.
13. Translations? Scholastic has done only one translation:
Harry Potter and the Sorcererís Stone (Braille), New York: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 1998. It has been reprinted by the National Braille Press, Boston.

Translations by other publishers include:

1. Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal (Spanish), Castile: Salamandra, 1999. Translated by Alicia Dellepiane.
2. Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal (Spanish), Barcelona: EmecÈ Editores, 1999.
3. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen (German), Carlsen, 1998. Translated by Klaus Fritz.
4. Harry Potter a l'ecole des Sorciers (French), Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse, 1998.
5. Hali Bote: shen mi de mo fa shi (Chinese), Taibei Shi: Huang guan wen hua chu ban you xian gong si, 2000.
6. Harry Potter & Honda phu thuy (Vietnamese), Ho Chi Minh: Tre, 2000.
7. Garri Potter i Filosofskii Kamen (Russian), Moskva: Rosmen, 2000.
8. Harry Potter i Kamien Filozoficzny (Polish), Poznan: Media Rodzina, 2000. Translated by Andrzej Polkowski.
9. Haeri Pëotëo wa mabopsa ui tol (Korean), Soul: Munhak Suchíop, 1999. Translated by Hye-won Kim.
10. Hari Potta to kenja no ishi (Japanese), Tokyo: Seizansha, 1999. Translated by Yuko Matsuoka.
11. Hari Poter ve-even ha-hakhamim (Hebrew), Tel Aviv: Sifre Hemed, 2000. Translated by Gili Bar-Hillel.
12. Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale (Italian), Milano : Adriano Salani Editore, 1998. Translated by Marina Astrologo.
13. Harry Potter e a pedra filosofal (Portuguese), Rio de Janeiro, Lisboa : Editorial Presenca, 2001.

Supposedly, 35 translations exist, but these are the only ones for which I could find bibliographic information. In addition, Bloomsbury USA, the American division of Harry Potterís British publisher, has announced plans to release translations in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Celtic in the near future.
14. Serialization? After an extensive search of Publishers Weekly, we can conclude that the novel was not serialized. The search encompassed July 1998, a few months before the book was published, to July 1999, when the first sequel was published, at which point it is unlikely that a periodical would begin to serialize the original novel.
15. Sequels or Prequels? Sequels as of October 2002, all by J.K. Rowling:
1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 1999.
2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 1999.
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 2000.
4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Press), 2003. (projected release)

According to the author, it is understood that there will be seven books in the series.

Trade paperback editions have been released for the first three sequels, as well as a mass market paperback for the first. In addition, J.K. Rowling has penned two books that tie in to the Harry Potter series:

Quidditch Through the Ages. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.
and
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

Finally, an unauthorized fifth installment in the series was written anonymously and published in China in 2002. The book, entitled Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon, was published illegally, and is not endorsed by the Chinese Government, nor Peopleís Literature Publishing House, Chinaís official Harry Potter publisher. This book is in no way related to the official Harry Potter series.
Assignment 3: Brief Biography
Like that of Harry Potter, her ubiquitous creation, J.K. Rowling’s life has been one of humble beginnings and wild, unexpected success. From a single mother writing in the few hours that she was not working to becoming the richest woman in England, her experience surrounding, in particular, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was one of personal struggle and fulfillment, and the story surrounding her rise to fame is as interesting as that of Harry.

Joanne Kathleen Rowling was born on July 31, 1966 in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, England, the daughter of Peter and Ann Rowling. She attended elementary and high school between the towns of Bristol and Tutshill in England, and enrolled in Exeter University for studies in foreign languages. Although she loved reading and writing, she was convinced that studying foreign languages would help her get a job, as would studying to be a bilingual secretary in London.

It was at this point, in 1990, that the idea for Harry Potter “popped into” her head, as she describes it. During the five year process of developing the characters, settings, and plots for the entire series, Rowling moved to Portugal and obtained a job teaching English. Here, she met a journalist, whose name she has never revealed publicly, was married, and had a daughter, Jessica, in 1993. While her writing and developing was going well, having completed the first three chapters of what would become Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, her personal life was not so successful, and she divorced her husband in 1993. In a state of depression and desperation, she moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, at the suggestion of her sister.

In Edinburgh, she came close to putting Harry Potter aside permanently, feeling that she, as a single mother, should obtain some kind of gainful employment to support her daughter. Luckily, her sister insisted that she take a year and try to finish the book, seeing promise in her idea. Rowling, realizing that she “did not have the luxury of writer’s block”, agreed. Humbled by living off public assistance, she concentrated on her writing, inspired by her daughter. Not being able to afford a typewriter, she wrote in longhand on scraps of paper at a local coffee bar. It was Harry Potter, which she never really saw as a children’s book, but rather what she “found funny”, that helped her through these difficult experiences.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was completed in 1994. She applied for and received a $4,000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council, which helped to support her daughter, and she got a job as a French teacher while she waited to hear back from agents regarding Harry Potter. Finally, agent Christopher Little wrote her and offered to represent her. Warning her that children’s book authors do not typically make a lot of money, he began the process of finding a publisher. In 1996, Bloomsbury Press, at the urging of editorial director Barry Cunningham, bought the manuscript for $4,000.

By 1997, word-of-mouth had already began causing fervor over this book from an unheard-of author. The book was seen as so strong in the publishing world, and the anticipation so great, that Arthur A. Levine, an editorial director at Scholastic Press, bid $100,000 for acquiring the book’s American rights, an outrageous sum for a first-time author. This began a friendly and fruitful relationship between Scholastic and Rowling that continues to this day.

Finally, the book was published in England in 1997, when Joanne was 32 years old. Rowling, typically a shy person, conceded to doing a large number of interviews and promotions for the book, which she felt she owed to those people who were taking a chance on her story. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was an immediate success in England, selling its initial run of 150,000 copies in a matter of weeks. The press was also universally positive. The book received a number of prestigious awards, including the Smarties Book Prize, the Children’s Books Group Award, and the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year. The overnight success of this first British installment, paralleled across the Atlantic with the American release, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was matched in the publication of her next two books, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Each sold millions of copies in their first year, mounting unheard-of numbers for children’s books. In 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment in the series, has the largest first-printing in publishing history, with a 3.8 million-copy run in America.

The success story of Harry Potter fortunately coincides with equally pleasing developments in Joanne’s own life. On December 26, 2001, she married doctor Neil Murray, with whom she lives in Perthshire, just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is pregnant, and has just completed work on the series’ fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, due out in mid-2003. It is in her home that she keeps her manuscripts and continues to work closely on the world of Harry Potter, which includes not only of the remaining books in the series (there are to be seven in all), but also the film adaptations of the books, which she works on very closely with the screen writers. Her agents, editors, and publishers have been very careful in giving her complete artistic and legal control over her world, and this has created a franchise which has been magical to watch unfold, and will continue to dazzle for the duration of this, and hopefully other series from this author.
Assignment 4
Contemporary Reception:
Like the opinions of the throngs of readers, young and old, that made Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone an instant bestseller, professional criticism of the novel was universally positive. The reasons for this reaction, however, so not pertain only to its story and the talent of J.K. Rowling, but rather to the simple fact that the book was published and originally accepted as a children’s novel. Through an examination of various reviews of the book, we can better understand how this positioning of the book had an effect on its reception, and how the way in which the book permeated the market and grew beyond its intended audience to one that included people of all ages changed the way in which this novel, as well as the other books in the Harry Potter series, has been accepted by both professional critics and society at large. (Note: this summary of the book’s reception history will include 1000 words on contemporary criticism, as it was published in 1998, and subsequent reception does not apply.)

The initial reactions to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, published in the few months following its initial release by Scholastic, praised the book as a gem in the children’s fantasy genre. A delightful and original addition to this category, the novel, even early-on, was attributed with soon-to-be classic status, and this first-time writer placed beside children’s literature giants: “Readers looking for the new Roald Dahl may have finally found their writer” (Wilde). However, despite these rave reviews, the book in these early reactions was judged as spectacular within the framework of children’s fantasy literature, and the initial reviews, while overwhelmingly positive, seem to have a slight condescension about them typical of children’s literature reviews, not praising or critiquing those elements of plot and characterization so vital to adult fiction. In addition, the book was not initially reviewed by publications such as The New York Times Book Review or The Boston Globe, review sources which stick to mainly adult, “important” fiction, but was rather limited to typical children’s book review sources. Early reactions included praise such as “This hugely enjoyable fantasy…slanted toward action-oriented readers…is filled with imaginative details” (Kirkus) and “Rowling’s wonderful ability to put a fantastic spin on sports, student rivalry, and eccentric faculty contributes to the humor, charm, and, well, delight of her utterly captivating story” (Cart). Very few of these early reviews recognize or give time to the emotional power and serious issues brewing behind the tale, and even the reviews that respect the book enough to offer serious criticism seem to ignore these elements of the narrative: “It’s also not clear that the stakes are anything to get excited about--Harry’s victory over evil seems merely to mean his house’s victory in intramural competition, and his loss would seem merely to have caused a change in headmaster and school policy. Still, the carefully imagined world of the wizardly school and the triumph of the underappreciated young hero will suffice to keep many wannabe wizardlings reading” (Stevenson). There were a couple reviews, however, who broke from these typical early reactions, and recognized the true adult scope of the world Rowling creates, as well as its eventual ascension to serious blockbuster status among readers of all ages: “Rowling has conjured a fully realized world of magic, complete with centuries-old history and tradition, language, rules of conduct, games, and, of course, the requisite battle between good and evil in which Harry and his new made friends become involved, leading to tension, excitement, and mystery in this wonderful first novel” (CCBC).

As the world began to witness the birth of a best-selling phenomenon, however, critics began to look more closely at the very serious, adult plot lines operating behind what is at first glance a children’s book, and began to see many of the things ignored by the first reactions, things represented in the last review noted above. The growing popularity of the novel even demanded that more reputable book review sources take notice, and a review of the book appeared in the 14 February 1999 issue of The New York Times Book Review, which begins to judge Harry Potter where it has come to belong, as a fully-competent series to be judged alongside great works for all ages:

“Throughout most of the book, the characters are impressively three-dimensional (occasionally four-dimensional!) and move along seamlessly through the narrative. However, a few times in the last four chapters, the storytelling begins to sputter, and there are twists I found irritating and contrived… [but] these are minor criticisms. On the whole, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is as funny, moving and impressive as the story behind its writing. J. K. Rowling, a teacher by training, was a 30-year-old single mother living on welfare in a cold one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh when she began writing it in longhand during her baby daughter's nap times. But like Harry Potter, she had wizardry inside, and has soared beyond her modest Muggle surroundings to achieve something quite special.” (Winerp)

The Christian Science Monitor had criticism of a similar caliber, as did The Boston Globe, which noted:

“Indeed, Harry Potter, whatever its minor flaws, remains a glorious debut, a book of wonderful comic pleasures and dizzying imaginative flights. It won several important prizes when it was published last year in Britain and deserves several more. There is no cause to doubt Rowling's abilities and promise, and every reason to expect great things, truly great things, from her in the future.” (Rozenburg)

Clearly, these reviews judge the novel within a scope outside that of typical children’s book publishing, and at least begin to recognize Harry Potter and Rowling as formidable additions to the twentieth century’s body of literature. This important shift in the reaction to the book, as well as the position of the novel among other bestsellers and other works of fiction, is further emphasized by a number of later reactions, including those related to the release of the film adaptation of Sorcerer’s Stone:

“Lovers of the book will find most of their favorite moments beautifully realized, perhaps even bigger and more wondrous than they imagined them. That doesn't mean this is a great movie. To be that - or even to be judged by the standards of greatness - its creators would have needed to reimagine the story, to make it their own, or at least to come to terms with its emotional essence. They didn't even try…Their film cannot surprise and wow audiences with the unforeseen breadth of its mythic vision - the four books have already done that…The film is a triumph, but it is a triumph of translation, which is a lesser art. It duplicates scenes, moods and story, playing everything rather broadly without ever really penetrating to the deeper emotions that underlay the best parts of the book.” (Harrison)

The way in which Harrison imbues the novel with “emotional essence,” “mythic vision,” and “deeper emotions that underlay the best parts of the book” show a stark difference from its reception early on, when it was mistakenly relegated to simply being a very good children’s book. It is clear from this evaluation of the novel’s critical reception that this book has truly transcended the dividing line between children’s and adult fiction, and it is this transcending that has come to distinguish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone among the myriad fantasy works of either age group, and provide the power behind both its emotional and publishing power.

Works Cited:

Cart, Michael. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Booklist, September 15, 1998. As reproduced in entry in The Children’s Literature Database: www.childrenslit.com.

Harrison, Eric. “Wild About Harry; Adaptation Is Entertianing, But Potter Isn’t a Classic Yet.” The Houston Chronicle: 16 November, 2001.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. As reproduced in entry in The Children’s Literature Database: www.childrenslit.com.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Kirkus Reviews. As reproduced in entry in The Children’s Literature Database: www.childrenslit.com.

Rozenburg, Liz. “A Founding Boy and His Corps of Wizards; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The Boston Globe: 1 November, 1998.

Stevenson, Deborah. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, November 1998. As reproduced in entry in The Children’s Literature Database: www.childrenslit.com.

Wilde, Susie. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Entry from The Children’s Literature Database: www.childrenslit.com.

Winerip, Michael. “Children’s Books: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The New York Times Book Review: 14 February, 1999.
Subsequent Reception:
N/A
Assignment 5
Critical Essay:
“He’ll be famous – a legend…there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name!” – Professor McGonagall

This statement, taken from the first chapter of J.K. Rowling’s debut novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, seems, in 2002, eerily prophetic, given the unprecedented impact it and its sequels have had on the publishing world since the book was released internationally in 1998. The excitement and controversy of Harry’s adventures at Hogwart’s School for Witchcraft and Wizardry have only been matched by that surrounding each and every event in Harry Potter’s whirlwind rise from coffee shop napkins to record-breaking publishing sensation, from receiving a huge bid for a first-time author’s American publishing rights ($100,000 from Scholastic Inc. in 1997, before the novel was even released in the UK), to being adapted into a record-breaking feature film. In addition, the book belongs to a number of important bestseller genres, including the cult hit and the blockbuster debut novel. But perhaps the most important factor that has contributed to the attention earned by this particular novel in popular media is its status as a part of the children’s book genre. Indeed, it is the fact that a title relegated to this brand of literature was selling in such huge numbers throughout its first two years that has sent the most significant shockwaves throughout the publishing world, and gives us the opportunity to evaluate this unique book for what it contributes to our understanding of best-selling fiction. If this book is indeed a “children’s book”, what particular characteristics and themes does it share with adult best-selling literature that can help explain its success? And what does this double-standard that has been applied to Harry Potter tell us about the state of book publishing as it stands today? Through an analysis of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, as well as the way in which it transformed the way in which bestsellers are arranged in The New York Times bestseller list, we can begin to draw toward an answer to these questions.


Harry Potter as a “Children’s Book”

From the beginning, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, as it was originally released in England) has been positioned as a “children’s book.” But what does this mean? Surely, it contains a number of elements that have traditionally characterized children’s literature: a fantastic story of magic and mythical beings, revolving primarily around the adventures of a young boy. In this way, it shares a lot with other great stories and characters that have become staple examples of children’s fantasy literature; the books of Roald Dahl or The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis instantly spring to mind. The most successful and enduring selections of these author’s libraries involve ordinary children that are whisked away on adventures to places and with characters that exist just over the edge from our world. Harry Potter, when seen as simply a children’s book, seems like just another rehashing of these classic stories, arguably better written, but still of the same category. Harry is taken away from his modest, oppressive household, and dropped into a world where the extraordinary is commonplace, and where he, ridiculed, or, at best, ignored in our world, exists as a hero. These are dreams we all have, but, as is admitted by the placement of these stories in a “children’s books” category, these are dreams that ought to abandoned after childhood. For this reason, even adult fantasy such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is often mistakenly categorized today as children’s literature, despite its adult themes and complex narrative.
Another element of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that it shares with literature commonly regarded as children’s books is the fact that the story revolves around a child. In this story, we are placed in a world where children have the ability to act with as much authority and importance as adults, to the point that adults here are often marginalized to minor character roles. In Harry Potter, the characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione take center stage, and it is their efforts alone that keep the Sorcerer’s Stone out of Voldemort’s hands, when adults are either disbelieving of their story, like Professor McGonagall, or are incapacitated, as in the case of Professor Dumbledore (Rowling 267). This glorification of child authority is often seen as a defining characteristic of children’s literature. However, we see that this method of classification is as problematic as the one of fantastical elements mentioned above. This method of categorization has served to place books such as William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on children’s shelves in bookstores today as well, despite the fact that they deal with much more adult issues, and the fact that they were originally released as adult fiction. This too has caused a number of problems for booksellers, as it has become difficult to define what divides children’s literature and adult literature (Brown).
This collection of characteristics, in addition to the omission of any harsh language, explicit sexuality, or gratuitous violence (which, as we have learned this semester, can alone make for a successful adult bestseller), automatically categorizes this book as a “children’s book” in this era of publisher classifications, despite the possible problems we have seen with this definition. For, as we will explore now, Harry Potter shares a great deal with what traditionally defines adult best-selling literature, something that has also contributed to its success.


Harry Potter as an “Adult Book”

The first quality which sets Harry Potter apart from other children’s books that one notices is the fact that its writing, for the most part, is of a higher caliber and sophistication. This is a difficult point to support in a paper of this length, but we can highlight a few key elements that reveal this distinction. First, the abundance of detail. From the moment that Harry learns of his magical heritage, we are thrust into a world of lavish detail, and this makes the world of the story that much more believable and enjoyable. For instance, Harry receives in his letter of acceptance to wizarding school a list of items that he needs to bring with him on his first day:

UNIFORM
First-year students will require:
1. Three sets of plain work robes (black)
2. One plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
3. One pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)…
COURSE BOOKS
The Standard Book of Spells by Miranda Goshawk…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamader…
OTHER EQUIPMENT
1 wand
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials…
Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS
(Rowling 66-67)

Any reader of the book will also remember the care and detail that went into constructing the game of quidditch, the wizard sport played with magic balls and broomsticks (Rowling 180). It is this extreme level of detail, illustrated in more examples than we have room to explore here, that sets Harry Potter apart from even the best children’s literature, and is more characteristic of the immersive worlds created by adult best-selling authors like John Irving and John Steinbeck.
This issue of creating a world for a story connects directly to much that we have already discussed about adult best-selling fiction. It is not only this detailed fantastic world that engrosses the reader, but the way in which it is inextricably connected to our own world. This is quality much more characteristic of adult fiction, creating a world that is exotic and separate from our own, but also permeates, we perceive, into our everyday life. We saw this, for example, with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, where the action of the story took place within a world that operates under different rules from our own, but operates underneath and sometimes in opposition to the world that we know. The same is true for the magical world of Harry Potter, where the wizarding world must be kept secret from the world of “muggles”, or non-magic people.
In addition, as we find in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and even more fully developed in further installments of the series, it is the conflict between these worlds that gives the novel its powerful underlying edge. At its heart, Harry Potter is, like many works of adult fiction, a class/racial struggle. The powerful evil force in the book is an evil wizard who wants is opposed to the freedoms allowed to “muggles”, and seeks to gain power by enslaving these people. In this way, characters that are seen as evil have this type of oppressive class consciousness about their actions, such as Harry’s young nemesis, Draco Malfoy: “You’ll soon learn that some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go falling in with the wrong sort. I can help you there” (Rowling 108). Harry’s muggle upbringing is a source of constant anxiety for him, especially as he learns more about his deep connection to different witches and wizards (Rowling 79). In this way, Harry becomes a hero of both worlds as he rises to power, and it is this racial struggle that gives him his power in the eyes of readers. And this conflict of class and race is directly related to the same issues that give books like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Godfather their enduring strength. Again, this class struggle is made much more palpable in the following installments of the series, but is present behind the action of Sorcerer’s Stone as well.
Now that we have evaluated the ways in which Harry Potter bridges the gap between children’s and adult fiction, and how its themes and characteristics parallel those of best-selling adult fiction, we will explore further how its applied genre of “children’s literature” relates to its blockbuster success, and what this tells us about contemporary bestseller publishing.


Harry Potter as a Bestseller

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was accepted for publishing throughout the world, it was classified in this problematic yet existing genre of children’s literature. And, as was stated to J.K. Rowling prior to beginning her publisher search in 1994, “you know, children’s book authors do not make a lot of money” (Shapiro 116). Although Rowling herself notes that she wrote the book from what entertained her, and not from a standpoint of becoming a children’s author, she was thrilled nonetheless when she was first accepted by a publisher, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, in 1997 (Shapiro 115). Because it was initially released as a children’s book, its initial rise to public attention can be attributed mainly to the factors that influence sleeper hits noted by Malcolm Gladwell in his article “The Science of the Sleeper” (Gladwell 49): it was published in America by Scholastic Inc., at that time the sixth largest children’s book publisher in America (as we know from reading Gladwell’s article, this position is far from dominant), sales were small, initially (though large for a children’s book), and were fueled mainly though independent bookstores and word of mouth (Brown). However, it took off very early in 2000, about eight months after its release, and stayed near the top of the New York Times Bestseller List for much of 1999 and 2000, soon joined there by the next two books in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was in this period that it began to take on the characteristics of a blockbuster as noted in Gladwell’s article (Gladwell 49): Scholastic grew to be the largest children’s book publisher in America, from a $400 million company to a $2 billion company, and the books, especially Sorcerer’s Stone, were promoted accordingly. It was at this point, in the summer of 2000, that the fourth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was to be released. It was the be the quintessential blockbuster, with an initial run of 3.8 million copies (the largest in publishing history), and was expected to join the others at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List (Corliss). However, this would not happen.
It was at this point that The New York Times decided to restructure its bestseller list for the first time in 16 years, dividing it between adult and children’s bestsellers. This was due directly to pressure from publishers (not, of course, Scholastic) who were upset three, and now probably four, children’s books would be holding spots on the list (Corliss). This begs the question, what does the genre “children’s literature” really mean? Is it merely a genre distinction? Or as Richard Corliss asks in his article “Why Harry Potter Did a Harry Houdini”, “is it, by definition, second-class literature?” (Corliss). As Barbara Marcus, Vice President of Publishing at Scholastic points out, “if an adult horror writer had been on the list for a year, would they have created a horror best-seller list?” (Corliss). Probably not. This again throws the definition of the children’s literature genre into dispute, a question that has great bearing on how we evaluate Harry Potter’s success. The distinction cannot simply be what children are reading versus what adults are reading, because NPD Group marketing statistics have shown that 30% of Harry Potter purchases have been for adults.
The answer lies, instead, in the power of contemporary publishing. As Gladwell illustrates in his article, publishing at the turn of the twenty-first century is controlled not necessarily by what is good literature, but by what the largest publishing houses say is the best literature (Gladwell 49-52). By eliminating Harry Potter from the bestseller list, other publishers are increasing the chance that one of their books could attain this title. In this way, the list has stopped meaning what books are selling in what numbers, but rather what books that the publishers want the public to see are selling in what numbers. Is this fair? This question, unfortunately, is not ours to answer, but we can surmise the effect that it has on Harry Potter. The relegation of these books to a separate list inherently implies that they are not of enough worth to be counted among adult books, despite their readership and huge quantities sold. In this way, the phenomenon is cheapened slightly. However, we must consider the other side of this. The fact that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone continues to move at unprecedented numbers, and will probably continue to do so as subsequent books in the series are released, is a testament to the fact that good literature will still find its way to the top despite the power of publishing giants, and that Professor McGonagall’s statement, above, still rings true. We can only hope that this can still be true for future children’s books to be released, that the new classification system will not impede their success. This has yet to be determined. However, whatever the outcome, it is clear that the path of this unique bestseller has been shaped significantly by its particular genre, that of the children’s book.
Supplementary Materials
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Bestsellers
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