“I have just returned from my great train journey to Scotland so Harry Potter has been read! I just loved the book, it is full of pace and interest and so very funny… There is something about Harry Potter that reminds me of Charlie Buckett in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the put upon nice guy making good… And please may I have a finished copy, I would like to tell lots of people about it.” – Fiona Waters, to Bloomsbury Children’s Marketing Manager Rosamund Walker, 28 March 1997
EARLIEST KNOWN COPY OF HARRY POTTER; NO OTHER COPIES LOCATED.
On February 26, 1997, this remarkable complete set of galley sheets was sent to the distinguished children's author and literary critic Fiona Waters. In the cover letter accompanying the galley (included here), Rosamund Walker, Children’s Marketing Manager of Bloomsbury Publishing wrote, “Further to our conversation, I have enclosed a manuscript for your interest as promised. Once you've had a chance to have a look, I would really appreciate it if you could let me know your comments for pre-publication quotes.” The "manuscript," already rejected by twelve other publishers, was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Waters read these advance galley sheets during a long train journey to Scotland and was immediately captivated by the tale of a young wizard named Harry Potter. While it was Ms. Waters’ usual practice to discard galleys after reading them, she retained this one because she believed Harry Potter was a truly special and distinctive book. She wrote back to Bloomsbury Publishing with effusive praise, making a special point of noting that “There is something about Harry Potter that reminds me of Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” In replying to Waters’ letter, Rosamund Walker wrote that “I’m sure the author will be most flattered with the allusion to Charlie Bucket” — and indeed she was: for the statement was featured prominently on the back cover of the first edition.
Historically significant, this is the only known set of advance galley sheets to have survived. It precedes the early June publication of some 200 bound proof copies as well as the first edition that famously appeared on June 26. Intended as they were for prominent reviewers, only a handful of such galleys were produced. Our copy belonged to a lead reviewer whose endorsement undoubtedly helped make the book the spectacular success it became. As Ms. Waters (who signed this galley on the first page) tells it, in recalling her first meeting with J. K. Rowling:
“It was very shortly after the first book was published and I was invited to a party by Bloomsbury to celebrate it all. And when I was introduced to her [J. K. Rowling], she flung her arms around me and said, Oh, you are the lovely lady who gave me that wonderful review!”
Note: By the late 1990s – well into the digital age of printing – publishers generally did not issue traditional galleys printed from a printing press, but rather printed a set of sheets from a file and copied them for distribution to a limited set of reviewers. This is such a copy; any earlier printed appearance has not been discovered and is almost certainly lost to history.
ROWLING, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, February 25, 1997. Galley sheets: 224 numbered pages on 109 sheets [the complete text]. Each sheet with text in landscape format, two pages per sheet (rectos only), time-stamped: 2/25/97 11:59am to 2/25/97 12:16pm. Signed at top in ink by Fiona Waters. WITH: Original signed letter dated 26th February, 1997 from Rosamund Walker introducing the book to Waters; and original signed letter from Walker dated 1 April 1997 thanking Waters for her praise of the book. With Fiona Waters’ copy of her letter to Rosamund Walker comparing Harry Potter to Charlie Bucket. Only minor blemishes, generally fine condition. Housed together in a custom box.
The earliest known copy of Harry Potter ever offered for sale.
Fiona Waters quote from conversation by phone with Manhattan Rare Books, March 24, 2023.
Errington, Philip W., J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography, rev. ed. (London: Bloomsbury, 2017).
Price: $275,000 .