The History of Harry Potter According to My Bookshelf

[No Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II spoilers involved!] 

This evening / last night, at midnight, for the first time since 2007 (nine whole years!), something new and very Harry Potter is / was being released at bookstores around the world. Am I excited about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II? I definitely have my reservations. Am I hyped to be working a midnight release party and hanging out with loads of Harry Potter fans till 1am? Absolutely.

Since it’s also been nearly 20 years since the first release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I thought I’d look back at my own copies of the book that started it all — for the world, and for myself.

I. The Well-Loved First Copy

harry potter 1

This book is the most well-loved book on my entire bookshelf. The cover is bent in so many different ways and the spine has been bent nearly to the point of being unreadable. I always feature it in the prominent and first spot on my bookshelf to remind everyone who visits: This is it. This is The Book, my ultimate book.

I first received Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — this copy specifically — in December 2000, as a literary white elephant gift amongst the girls in my third grade class. I got it from Victoria. She was so excited that I got the book that she couldn’t contain her excitement and threw the rule of anonymous gift-giving right out the window. She demanded I read it immediately and tell her what I thought.

When I brought it home, however, my mom confiscated it. She’d heard it was violent, dark, filled with magic and death. I begged her to let me read it, so she finally agreed to read it first and decide if I could have my turn or not.

As soon as she finished it, she pushed it into my hands and ran out to buy the second book as fast as she could.

I’ve shared this book with several people, including my uncle, who kept it for many years and, still, unless I’m mistaken, has never read the full series. (I even made him a library card to take it out of the “Library of Mikala” — which I also still have.) I’ve reread this copy specifically several times, especially when I was waiting on new books to be released. The smell of the glue in its binding soothes me, and the feel of the pages, softened by reading and love, always feels like home.

This copy is definitely one of my most prized possessions.

II. The Hardcover Collection Copy

harry potter 3

By the time the full series had been released, my family had multiple copies of several of the more recent books — I needed my own copy to read as fast as possible, and my mom needed one for herself and my siblings — and absolutely none of them matched much. Our copy of Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince has water spots, bleached pages, dirt hiding in the corners, and a spine so cracked it doesn’t even sit properly anymore. And I’m pretty certain several pages of our original Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix are just barely hanging on.

So, following the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we ran out and bought each of the books in pristine hardback editions.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t really opened or read any of these hardback copies. I tend to grab the paperback versions first, so these books will probably always look somewhat brand-new.

But they’re just so gorgeous that way, aren’t they?

III. The Philosopher’s Stone Thesis Copy

harry potter 2

Last but not least is my U.K. printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I bought this copy in 2014 when I was studying abroad in the United Kingdom. I was reading for a tutorial on children’s literature at the University of Oxford, and a lot of the course books weren’t available through the Bodleian Library. So every Thursday afternoon, with my latest reading list in hand, I’d wander to the back of Blackwell’s and look through the kid’s section for the books I needed.

Each time, I had to walk by the display of the Harry Potter series. And I’d stop and stare each time. When my best friends came to visit me late March, I dragged them into the store and to that bay of books. We ooh’ed and aah’ed for quite awhile, and had to touch and flip through all of them.

For six months, I debated back and forth if I needed a U.K. edition of any of the Harry Potter series. And also, of all things, which book should I buy? My favorite — Prisoner of Azkaban — or the one with the best cover — Deathly Hallows — or the original? Finally, I decided on Philosopher’s Stone (mostly because I wanted a copy with the original English title!). I didn’t buy this copy until my second to last day studying at Oxford.

This edition is still holding together rather well but, what you can’t see in the picture above, is how riddled with sticky notes its pages are. For my senior honors thesis, my final chapter was on the intelligence and agency of Hermione Granger throughout the first book. In honor of studying specifically British children’s literature, I decided to stick with the original Philosopher’s title and text, so this copy went through the (thesis) ringer right along with me — which means it will always be very very close to my heart as well.

* * *

As I finish writing this, I’ve just returned from the end of my store’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II midnight release party. It was a blast. I’d like to thank Harry Potter fans for being some of the kindest and easiest people — and customers! — with whom I’ve ever interacted. I noticed this first when I spent time shoulder-to-shoulder with other fans at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Orlando, and tonight’s experience just really proved that (most) Harry Potter fans are a unique and special breed of people.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to the most adorable three-year-old Dobby I have ever seen, pillow-case and all. And another to the woman who looked me dead in the eye when I sorted her into Hufflepuff and said, “I never thought I’d get to do this again. I’m going to cry.” And another to little Miss Margaret who wrote on our Muggle Wall that Harry Potter is important to her because of its “REALLY AWESOME FEMALE LEADS” (a girl after my own heart). And another, especially, to all the really really young readers and the less really really young readers I saw at the store whose eyes were all just as bright and excited as the next reader’s.

Here’s to Harry Potter — to the book that started it all, and to the latest installment.

Happy Cursed Child reading!

And no spoilers!

* * *

Please note: Featured image is copyrighted to artist and illustrator Jim Kay.


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