It will probably come as a severe age check to most of you, but Harry Potter’s first adventure, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was first published 20 years ago, on June 26, 1997. Of course, the United States wouldn’t see the official publication of the book until the following year on September 1, 1998. It was also renamed to Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, a move that author J.K. Rowling later said she regretted.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but twenty years ago when Philosopher’s Stone was first published, it was a huge risk for the publisher, Bloomsbury. They thought that at 90,000 words, the book was too long for a children’s book. However, on the word of eight-year-old Alice Newton, her father, Nigel Newton – Bloomsbury’s chief executive, purchased the book for publication, paying an advance of £2,500 ($3,184.62 today). He purchased the first book in August of 1996. The initial print run of hardback books was limited to only 500 copies, three hundred of which were sent to libraries. One book from this original run sold in 2007 for over $33,000. The book became a moderate success in the UK, earning a National Book Award and a gold medal in the Nestle Smarties Book Prize.
The rights to publish Philosopher’s Stone in the United States was sold to Scholastic for $105,000 in April of 1997, an unheard of amount for a children’s book. The initial print run was 50,000 copies. Since then, the book has been translated into 74 languages, including Ancient Greek. There are an estimated 500 million copies of all seven books that have been sold, making it the most successful book series of all time.
To commemorate the event, Bloomsbury is re-releasing the original book in a special 20th anniversary edition with four distinct covers. Each version will have a different house crest on them, from a yellow Hufflepuff badger to a dark blue Ravenclaw, a green Slytherin, or a deep red Gryffindor. The Anniversary editions are available on the publisher’s website in both hardcover and paperback. Although, as an added bonus, the edges of the pages of the hardcover editions have the individual house colors and patterns.
The popularity of the books continues to this day. Libraries all over the world acknowledge the series as one of their most requested, with some saying that the requests for transfers or holds come in nearly nonstop. There’s no denying the impact that Harry Potter has had on the world, both in everyday life and in the literary world. Here are just a few of the ways that Harry Potter changed the world.
- The New York Times was forced to create a separate list for best selling children’s books. In July 2000, after the first three Potter books had held the top three positions on the New York Time’s Bestseller List for over a year, publishers asked for the change so that adult books could have a chance at the #1 spot again.
- Introduced John Green to the world. While it can be argued that Green would eventually break out on his own accord, it was his and his brother Hank’s song about Deathly Hallows that brought viral attention to their YouTube channel. From there, people discovered his book, The Fault In Our Stars, and the rest is also literary history.
- SPOILERS! While spoilers have always been a thing, it wasn’t until the twists in the Harry Potter books that people seemed to take them seriously. Combine that with the internet and the ease with which people could blab about who killed Dumbledore, or who died in Order of the Phoenix, and the spoiler culture took off like a Golden Snitch.
- Introduced cross-over YA fiction to the world. Be honest, before Harry Potter, the number of young adult fantasy fiction books was very low. Suddenly, with the explosion of popularity of Potter, Granger, and Weasley, new authors and series were accepted into the fold of mainstream fiction.
- Two-movie endings. Before Deathly Hallows, seven book series were turned into seven-film series. Okay, honestly, there were no seven-book series being turned into films. But after Deathly Hallows was split into two parts, all of a sudden, every YA movie adaptation did it. Breaking Dawn (Twilight) was split into two; The Hobbit was split into three films, Mockingjay (The Hunger Games) was split into two, and the third Divergent novel was planned as two parts.
There’s no denying that Harry Potter has given the world many memories over the past 20 years. And with author J.K. Rowling going strong, it looks like the world of wizards, muggles, and fantastic beasts will be providing memories for the next 20 as well.
[Featured Image by Matt Dunham/AP Images]