First Harry Potter Book Published
The 30th of June 1997 AD
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first in the seven book series by J.K. Rowling , appeared in hardback on June 30 1997 in a print-run of 1000 copies. For once the usual hyperbole of reviews and book-jackets is merited: the book not only changed Rowling’s life, setting her on the road to fortune; incredibly it also improved child literacy skills in the English speaking world as many millions engaged with the story.
Some critics may pick holes in Rowling’s style – too many adverbs (somehow reminiscent of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart is told a composition has too many notes) for example, but she has also been compared to Jane Austen for the lightness of her touch and the cunning inclusion of details of future importance. The plot is a cracker, a thriller as appealing to adults as to children, the older contingent perhaps also reminded of Jennings and Derbyshire and similar tales: there is magic; loss; loneliness; friendship; mystery; humour aplenty; and even a touch of gothic horror.
Rowling says the idea for the character of Harry came to her in a flash in 1990 during a long train journey, rapidly followed by situations and plots. She immediately began writing in her Clapham flat, and continued when she had moved back to Edinburgh , finishing the novel in 1995.
It seems incredible now that Rowling’s agent spent a year trying to sell the book which was rejected by a dozen publishers, and that her advance from the more perceptive Bloomsbury was only £2500. Bloomsbury had the intelligence to ask a child – their chief executive’s young daughter - to read the first chapter, and her very positive reaction according to the legend sealed the deal for the company.
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