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Sotheby’s to auction the illustration that introduced Harry Potter to the world

May 2, 2024.
Thomas Taylor’s Original Cover Artwork forHarry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Thomas Taylor’s Original Cover Artwork for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

This June, a universally recognized literary illustration is set to go to auction at Sotheby’s: Thomas Taylor’s original watercolor for the first book in the beloved Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Taylor’s work, featured on the covers of the first edition of the novel in 1997, is estimated at $400,000 to $600,000, marking the highest pre-sale estimate ever placed on an item of any Harry Potter-related work. The illustration is a highlight from the forthcoming sale of The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko, a small, highly significant library of nineteenth- and twentieth-century English and American literature, and will be offered on 26 June alongside works by literary greats such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Edgar Allan Poe, among others.

Taylor’s iconic illustration was first offered at auction in 2001 at Sotheby’s London, when only the first four books in the series were published and the story of Harry Potter had yet to be completed. However, Pottermania was already a global phenomenon and the presale estimate of £20,000 – £25,000 was, at the time, the highest estimate placed on any Harry Potter-related material. The illustration realized a recordbreaking £85,750, and now, more than 20 years later, the original illustration returns to auction poised to not only far exceed the value it previously sold, but also to potentially set a new auction record for any Harry Potter related item. In 2021, an unsigned first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone sold for $421,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, marking the current record price ever achieved for an item related to the Harry Potter series.

Thomas Taylor’s Original Cover Artwork for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Thomas Taylor’s Original Cover Artwork for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Additionally, this June, Sotheby’s will offer one of J.K. Rowling’s seven original manuscripts for The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a book of fairy tales penned by the author in 2007. This manuscript, which was not intended originally for publication, is one of only six handwritten by J.K Rowling, as gifts to people intimately involved with the publication of Harry Potter (the seventh was auctioned for charity). This copy was previously held in the collection of Barry Cunningham and includes the inscription: “To Barry, the man who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell … THANK YOU.” It will be offered during Sotheby’s New York Fine Books and Manuscripts Auction, estimated $250,000 – 350,000. The forthcoming Books and Manuscripts Auction at Sotheby’s London on 10 July will also feature several presentation copies of the Harry Potter series, including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Thomas Taylor’s illustration as well as a handwritten copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard will be available to view at Sotheby’s New York from 21st –
25th June. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

You can watch the interview we did with Thomas Taylor for the 25th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone here:

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