- J.K. Rowling’s original synopsis of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is on display at the British Library
- It’s part of an exhibition titled “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”
- The exhibition celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter novel
The original synopsis of J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book is on display at the British Library in London.
It’s part of the exhibition “Harry Potter: A History of Magic,” which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The synopsis was typed by Rowling in 1995 “to accompany the opening chapters and circulated among prospective publishers,” according to a plaque that accompanies the synopsis.
The novel was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it.
It goes on: “A copy was submitted to Bloomsbury Publishing and was a significant step in convincing them to offer J.K. Rowling her first contract.”
The synopsis begins by introducing Harry, the Dursleys, Hagrid, and his initial steps into the wizarding world.
Read the full first page here:
Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash — or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).
The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.
To the Dursleys’ fury, Hagrid also reveals the truth about Harry’s past. Harry did not receive the scar on his forehead in a car-crash; it is really the mark of the great dark sorcerer Voldemort, who killed Harry’s mother and father but mysteriously couldn’t kill him, even though he was a baby at the time. Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall.
So Harry, who has never had friends or family worth the name, sets off for a new life in the wizarding world. He takes a trip to London with Hagrid to buy his Hogwarts equipment (robes, wand, cauldron, beginners’ draft and potion kit) and shortly afterwards, sets off for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station (platform nine and three quarters) to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Harry makes friends with Ronald Weasley (sixth in his family to go to Hogwarts and tired of having to use second-hand spellbooks) and Hermione Granger (cleverest girl in the year and the only person in the class to know all the uses of dragon’s blood). Together, they have their first lessons in magic — astronomy up on the tallest tower at two in the morning, herbology out in the greenhouses where the
While the front page — which is the only one visible on display — cuts off here, the other pages are tucked behind it in the display case.
The exhibition combines “centuries-old British Library treasures” along with original material from Bloomsbury and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.
It is divided into rooms based on the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including Potions, Herbology, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, and Defence Against the Dark Arts.
Highlights include an annotated sketch of Hogwarts by Rowling, a deleted chapter from “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, Rowling’s handwritten list of teachers and subjects at Hogwarts, original chapter drafts, artwork by Jim Kay for the illustrated editions — including paintings and sketches of Harry Potter, Dumbledore, and Hagrid — as well as the tombstone of Nicolas Flamel, a real historical figure who features in the first book.
This sketch by Jim Kay shows first-year Harry…
…and here’s an early painting of the Hogwarts Express.
This is the original draft of chapter 17, “The Man With Two Faces,” from The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s written in biro on unlined paper.
The exhibition has already sold over 30,000 tickets — the most advance tickets ever sold for a British Library exhibition.
Of the exhibition, Rowling said: “The British Library has done an incredible job. Encountering objects for real that have in some shape or form figured in my books has been quite wonderful and to have several of my own items in the exhibition is a reminder of twenty amazing years since Harry was first published.”
Harry Potter: A History of Magic will run from October 20 to February 28 2018.