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The Rowling Magazine Issue #70 · October 2022

Interview with Massimo Battista

1131 words

In 2015, Bloomsbury published J.K. Rowling: A Bibliography 1997- 2013, the definitive bibliography of every edition of every book published by J. K. Rowling in English. Bloomsbury intended the book to be “the first source on Rowling consulted by textual scholars, book collectors, auction houses, critics and researchers”. It was authored by Philip Errington, who at the time was the Director for Children’s Books at Sotheby’s.

Seven years later, Massimo Battista wrote and published the Italian counterpart: Collezionare Harry Potter e altri libri di J.K. Rowling. Battista’s edition has the same purpose as Errington’s book, but with the different books and editions published in Italy. Released by Salani Editore (the Harry Potter publishers), Collezionare Harry Potter can be considered the definitive bibliography of J.K. Rowling for this European language.

We had the privilege to interview Massimo Battista and ask him a few questions about the process of writing this complex book.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your backstory?
My name’s Massimo Battista, I am from Italy, and I am 46 years old. I grew up with a great passion for books. I graduated in Literature focusing in dramaturgy with a thesis on J.M. Barrie’s theatrical works. Now I’m collaborating with one of the best Italian antiquarian bookshops: Libreria Antiquaria Drogheria 28, an amazing place to find rare books. It is located in Trieste, the city where I live. I also have a blog about rare books: www.labibliotecachevorrei.it

How did you come up the idea for this book? Was it a proposal by the publisher or you?
I collect rare books, and Harry Potter first editions are among these. At the beginning, I had an Excel file with information about reprints of some Italian editions of Harry Potter books. You know, just to understand which one was the real first edition.

One day, I spoke about it with my friend, Prof. Simone Volpato (who has a PhD in History of Books and Bibliography) and so I came up with the idea to extend my research to a real bibliography.

Before my book, there wasn’t a bibliography about J.K. Rowling in Italy, so I started to email some publishers to understand if there was an interest in this kind of work. Of course the Italian publisher of Harry Potter, Adriano Salani Editore, was interested.

How did you carry out the research?
The main problem when you want to describe a book using a textual bibliography method is that you need to have that book in your hands in order to analise it. At the beginning I didn’t realize how many books Salani (the Italian publisher) printed in 24 years (the first one, Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale, was published in 1998). So before visiting the Salani archive, I wanted to collect all the books I could.

I started to search for them online, but during the first Covid lockdown something happened: all the prices of used books increased by 300%… don’t ask me the real reason but it happened (not only J.K. Rowling; J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King, too). So, trying to get some books was a bit harder but I made it.

Was Philip Errington’s Bibliography inspiration for your own work? Did you use it as a reference?
Yes, absolutely! The Philip Errington’s one was like my personal bible in the last four years. It was a true inspiration thanks to the quality of that work.

Some English editions are similar to Italian, for example the ones illustrated by Clare Melinsky, so I could compare my work with the one of Dr. Errington, but most of them are different.

Without the English Bibliography, I probably wouldn’t have started mine. Both bibliographies have the same roots.

Did you have access to Salani Editore internal files to check some details?
Yes, after Salani saw the results of my personal research, they helped me to find more info about their books. For example, the exact number of the printed copies, which the company keeps private, was impossible to find on the internet.

What was the hardest edition to find? Do you have any fun stories from the writing process?
I found out that in 2006 Salani permitted “Angolo Manzoni”, a little local publisher, to print some copies (1000) of the first two books of Harry Potter for visually impaired readers. These copies were not sold in bookshops, they were available only in some libraries. The problem came when this little publisher failed to help me on my research, so I started to call different libraries but, because I’m a collector, not only did I want to see these books, I also wanted to own them as well. Fortunately I found a bookshop in Turin, with a very kind lady that had some copies! And now these copies are described in my book.

Why do you think this book is important for the collectors’ community?
For the past few years, in online forums and on Facebook, for example, there have been a lot of new Harry Potter readers that wanted to know something about the editions they are reading.

My bibliography is a sort of guide for them. Maybe for the common reader it could be too detailed but that is the way a textual bibliography is. Collectors will appreciate it.

Another important note: in Italy, in these 24 years, the translation used in the book was updated several times. Of course the best one is the latest but the movies, in Italy, used the first translation and a lot of fans want the books with that first translation. That explains why they are so loved and desired. The last part of my book focuses on those translations.

Do you think the average fan can enjoy this book too?
My book is of course dedicated all people who enjoy J.K. Rowling’s works, including the ones written as Robert Galbraith. I prefer to consider my book as a friend on your desk, that has the answers about that edition you have at home.

Many people, who are not collectors, wrote to me to say they have bought the book just to check if their Harry Potter copies are valuable. You can consider it a guide to collectors, but it can also be useful for academic research.

Is there anything else you want to add?
Just say thanks to you, to all your readers, to the Italian publisher that believed in this project. You know, a bibliography is a long work, lonely and full of problems to solve.

The biggest thank you, of course, to J.K. Rowling who, with her talent and her fantasy, has made it possible. My little wish is that she could read my book and enjoy it.

Collezionare Harry Potter, by Massimo Battista, 528 pages. (Salani Editore, 2022)

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