Proofs of the first 3 Harry Potters

Rowling, J. K.

(London [Bloomsbury], 1997, 1998, 1999)

3 vols. Advance issues of the 1st editions, the earliest of all printings (vol. I with “J. A. Rowling” on the title and “1 wand” twice on page 53, etc.). Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997 (re–titled Sorcerer’s Stone in the U. S.), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1998, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 1999. All are uncorrected (prepublication) proof copies, issued for review, in their original printed wrappers, the first one white with a yellow stripe, the second blue with a white stripe, and the third purple with a white stripe (the later Potter books were not issued in proof). Thin ridge near the spine of vol. I, a result of the way this proof was manufactured and endemic, almost a mark of authenticity (or, if you will, a hereditary defect reminiscent of Hill Folk), else a fine, bright, unread set (the only way to own books of this vintage), and any collector who still holds the belief that condition versus price is a 50–50 proposition doesn’t understand books or percentages.

$27,500 (SOLD)

Death themed fantasy for young adults with parts of it scarier than English manners, and other parts of it tougher than the grass that grows through cement sidewalks. It’s the chronological tail of any 20th century library, outrageously priced for its age, but sets of comparable quality sell for more, and those priced less have flaws that challenge respectability. So cheaper options may not materialize save for later British editions (placebos), American editions (wimpy), foreign language editions (you know better), or ex–library copies (c’mon). More of the value’s in vol. I (Philosopher’s Stone) of which, reportedly, 200 proofs were printed, followed by 300 hardcover copies (directed at libraries but not exclusively so) and 6,000 more in soft cover. Vol. II (Chamber of Secrets) probably had a larger proof printing, but the third (Prisoner of Azkaban) may also prove elusive in proof, as reports claim only 50 in purple (the primary color) were issued (Joanne to copyright, and “burned” not “burnt” this latter change might reflect 2 different printers, not an issue point), and yet, all of this data may be hearsay, and even if it isn’t, statistics are like psychiatrists, in that they will testify for either side. Still, when an unassailable record emerges, it would not be shocking if the number of proofs for vol. I stands at 200, those for vol. II proved nearly as small, and those for vol. III confirmed to also be 200, or less, maybe even 50.

After the first book’s success, stupefying bestseller sales (especially for the later titles) ramped up on publication day. Every successive book energized a collecting frenzy, with enthusiasts pursuing each new title in hoards, as if it were dangerous to meet them alone. Millions of fans, living lives without chart or compass, rudderless things, with stricken masts and torn sails, found safe harbor for a night in bookstores, conquered with irresistible numbers, then occupied and recast as temporarily snakeless Edens.