Friday, July 19, 2024

Original ‘Harry Potter’ Cover Art Fetches $1.9 Million at Auction

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The original watercolor illustration for the first edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” sold for $1.9 million on Wednesday, setting a new record as the most valuable Harry Potter item ever auctioned, according to Sotheby’s.

The artwork, created by Thomas Taylor in 1997, was the subject of intense bidding, with four contenders battling for nearly ten minutes before the hammer fell to applause.

Taylor, who was only 23 when he painted the iconic image of the young wizard with a lightning bolt scar and round glasses, had been expected to fetch between $400,000 and $600,000 for his work.

At the time, Taylor was working at a children’s bookstore in Cambridge, England, when he was approached by publisher Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury to illustrate J.K. Rowling’s debut novel, which was released on June 26, 1997.

Taylor had the unique advantage of reading an early manuscript to inspire his illustration, making him one of the first to envision the world of Harry Potter.

“He knew about the world before anybody else, and it was really up to him to think of how he visualized Harry Potter,” Sotheby’s books specialist Kalika Sands told AFP ahead of the auction.

When the book was first published, both Rowling and Taylor were unknowns, and the initial print run was just 500 copies, with 300 distributed to libraries. However, the book quickly became a global phenomenon.

Now, 27 years later, the “Potterverse” has expanded to include seven original books, a blockbuster film series, a critically acclaimed stage play, and numerous video games. Over 500 million copies of the books have been sold in 80 languages.

Reflecting on his role in the Harry Potter legacy, Taylor, now a successful children’s book author and illustrator, said in a statement released by Sotheby’s, “It’s exciting to see the painting that marks the very start of my career, decades later and as bright as ever. As I write and illustrate my own stories today, I am proud to look back on such magical beginnings.”

The illustration had previously been auctioned at Sotheby’s in London in 2001, fetching £85,750 (approximately $108,500 at current exchange rates). At that time, only four of the books had been published.

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