10 months ago
You remember the snaking lines, the camping out, the cosplay. The revolution that was the Harry Potter book series swept across the U.S. and around the world and never really ended. With the blockbuster films, theater productions, and brisk memorabilia marketplace, the franchise is still very much alive.
And while presumptive billionaire J.K. Rowling caused a minor earthquake this past summer, releasing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—not even a new book but a theatrical script—Sotheby’s has its hands on the Holy Grail of the Potterbilia world. As part of its “English Literature, History, Children’s Books, and Illustrations” sale set for Dec. 13 in London, Sotheby’s is putting up a copy of Rowling’s 2007 book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard Translated From the Original Runes. If you’re unfamiliar with the title, don’t worry; only seven copies of it exist, and it was personally handwritten and illustrated by Rowling herself. (The reason for the limited run? It’s 155 pages long, featuring 6,000 words and 17 individual illustrations.) It’s also not just any old book; it’s bound in Moroccan leather, which was embellished by a Scottish silversmith.
Why did Rowling go out of her way to handwrite these books? Readers of the final Potter entry, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, will be familiar with the character Beedle the Bard. In chapter seven, the fictitious book The Tales of Beedle the Bard makes an appearance. To honor “those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books during the past 17 years,” Rowling gifted them with a physical copy of the once-fictional book. This particular copy was presented to British publisher Barry Cunningham, and is inscribed with the note: “To Barry, the man who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell … thank you.”
Back in 2007, Sotheby’s auctioned off the seventh copy of the book for charity, with it realizing an astonishing $2.4 million at auction. (That’s a world record price for a manuscript and children’s book, by the way.) The winning bidder was Amazon, and it published an enlarged version of the book the following year.
The pre-auction estimate for the book is $368,000–$614,000. To track the lot, click here. Below, watch J.K. Rowling read from The Tales of Beedle the Bard.