Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone
About the Book
Author: JK Rowling
Illustrators: Mary GrandPre (US), Thomas Taylor (UK)
UK Edition Statistics: 17 chapters, 223 pages, 78,000 words
US Edition Statistics: 17 chapters, 309 pages, 78,000 words
Initial Print Runs: 500 copies (UK); 50,000 copies (US)
Hailed by critics as one of the best childrens' books of all time, JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is also one of the most popular. A simple idea conceived on a train ride in 1990 has now blossomed into a complex, seven-part tale that has entertained audiences around the world and become an icon of our popular culture.
Rowling told of how she came up with the idea for the Harry Potter books in an interview with the BBC: "I was going by train from Manchester to London, sitting there thinking of nothing to do with writing, and the idea came out of nowhere. I could see Harry very clearly - this scrawny little boy. And it was the most physical rush of excitement. I'd never felt that excited about anything to do with writing, I'd never had an idea that gave me such a physical response. So I'm rummaging through this bag to try to find a pen or pencil or anything. I didn't even have an eyeliner on me, so I just had to sit and think. And for four hours, because the train was delayed, I had all these ideas bubbling up through my head."
She writes on her official website, "I began to write 'Philosopher's Stone' that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance at all to anything in the finished book. I moved up to Manchester, taking the swelling manuscript with me, which was now growing in all sorts of strange directions, and including ideas for the rest of Harry's career at Hogwarts, not just his first year."
Over the next few years, Rowling wrote when she found time. She moved to Edinburgh with Jessica in late 1994, at which point she writes: "I intended to start teaching again and knew that unless I finished the book very soon, I might never finish it; I knew that full-time teaching, with all the marking and lesson planning, let alone with a small daughter to care for single-handedly, would leave me with absolutely no spare time at all. And so I set to work in a kind of frenzy, determined to finish the book and at least try and get it published. Whenever Jessica fell asleep in her pushchair I would dash to the nearest cafe and write like mad. I wrote nearly every evening. Then I had to type the whole thing out myself. Sometimes I actually hated the book, even while I loved it."
In a June 1997 interview with The Herald, she said, "This book saved my sanity. Apart from my sister I knew nobody. I've never been more broke and the little I had saved went on baby gear. In the wake of my marriage, having worked all my life, I was suddenly an unemployed single parent in a grotty little flat. The manuscript was the only thing I had going for me."
She also told The Herald the following: "I didn't know anything about agents but I went to the library and looked up some addresses in the Artists' and Writers' Yearbook. Christopher Little was only the second agent I wrote to. I remember getting a letter back. I assumed it was a rejection note, but inside the envelope there was a letter saying, 'Thank you. We would be pleased to receive the balance of your manuscript on an exclusive basis.'
"It was the best letter of my life, I read it eight times. Later on [the spring of 1997] Christopher rang and said there was an auction going on in America. He said I should get ready because a Mr Arthur Levine of the Scholastic Press would pay a six-figure sum and would be ringing me in 10 minutes. I nearly died."
In August of 1996, Bloomsbury Press purchased the rights to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as it is titled in the UK. Scholastic then bought the rights to publish it in the US (under the title of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) for more than $100,000 in the spring of 1997.
Both the hardcover and paperback editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone were published in the UK on June 26, 1997. The Americanized hardback version of the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was published by Scholastic on September 1, 1998 (ironically, the same date as the start of term in each book). Scholastic then released the paperback edition of Sorcerer's Stone on September 8, 1999 and the large print edition on November 1, 1999.
The book experienced immense success in the United States, and within two months Scholastic had completed their third print run of the book. JK Rowling toured across the United States (she hit Denver, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle) following the release of Sorcerer's Stone, and the level of excitement amazed her. She said, "It was fantastic, the best experience of my life and if I could do it all again tomorrow, I would....Perhaps it was stupid of me to think American kids would be any different to Scottish children, but their reaction was very similar. When I did public readings, they even all laughed in the same places as British youngsters."
Winner of the National Book Award (UK)
Winner of the Gold Medal Smarties Prize (UK)
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998
School Library Journal Best Book of 1998
Parenting Book of the Year Award 1998
New York Public Library Best Book of the Year 1998
An ALA Notable Book
FCBG (Federation of Children's Books Group) Children's Book Award 1997
Birmingham Cable Children's Book Award 1997
Young Telegraph Paperback of the Year
British Book Awards' Children's Book of the Year
Sheffield Children's Book Award
Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize
Sorcieres Prix 1998
Premio Cento per la Letteratura Infantile 1998
Booklist Best Book of the Year 1998
Booklist Editor's Choice 1998
Whitaker's Platinum Book Award 2001