Original Harry Potter cover art heads to New York's auction block


Thomas Taylor was working at a children's bookstore in Cambridge, England, when he was tapped by publisher Bloomsbury to paint the image for J.K. Rowling's book, released in June, 1997. Photo: Sotheby's

The original watercolour illustration for the first edition of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone – the book that introduced the world to the young bespectacled wizard – will go up for auction in New York on Wednesday.

The work by Thomas Taylor, who was just 23 years old in 1997 when he painted the iconic image of the young boy with the lightning bolt scar and the round glasses, is expected to fetch from US$400,000 (RM1.9mil) to US$600,000 (RM2.8mil) at Sotheby's.

Taylor was working at a children's bookstore in Cambridge, England, when he was tapped by publisher Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury to paint the image for J.K. Rowling's book, which was to be released in London on June 26, 1997.

He was one of the first people to read the book, getting an early copy of the manuscript to inform his artwork, according to Sotheby's books specialist Kalika Sands.

"So he knew about the world before anybody else and it was really up to him to think of how he visualized Harry Potter," Sands told AFP.

Rowling and Taylor were unknown when the book was released, and few expected it would become a global phenomenon. Only 500 copies of the first edition were printed, and 300 of them were sent to libraries, according to Sotheby's.

But the book soon became a runaway bestseller.

Twenty-seven years later, the so-called "Potterverse" features Rowling's seven original books, a blockbuster film franchise, a critically acclaimed stage play and video games.

More than 500 million copies of the books have been sold in 80 languages.

"It's exciting to see the painting that marks the very start of my career, decades later and as bright as ever," Taylor, now a children's book author and illustrator, said in a statement released by Sotheby's.

"As I write and illustrate my own stories today, I am proud to look back on such magical beginnings," Taylor said.

The first time the illustration was offered at auction at Sotheby's in London in 2001, it only fetched 85,750 pounds – about US$108,500 (RM511,252) at current exchange rates) – but only four of the books had been published at that time.

The illustration is part of a collection of manuscripts and rare book editions going up for sale that also features works by some of literature's great heavyweights, including Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

The collection belonged to surgeon Rodney Swantko, who died in 2002 at the age of 82. – AFP

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Harry Potter , cover art , Sotheby's , auction , New York


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