Harry Potter Book Hand-Illustrated by J.K. Rowling Sells for $467,000

An anonymous bidder won the coveted manuscript.

One J.K. Rowling's hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.
One J.K. Rowling's hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

An anonymous buyer snatched up one of seven copies of J.K. Rowling’s hand–illustrated The Tales of Beedle the Bard at Sotheby’s London on December 13 for £368,750 ($467,317).

The book was created as a gift for Barry Cunningham, Rowling’s first editor, following the release of the final Harry Potter book in 2007. At the time, there was no plan for widespread publication of the selection of fairy tales for wizarding children that featured prominently in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The other six copies were given to other instrumental figures in the series’ publication, save for one sold at Sotheby’s to benefit Rowling’s charity Lumos. Amazon won the auction with a £1.95 million ($3.985 million) bid, setting the record for a contemporary literary manuscript.

One J.K. Rowling's hand-illustrated copies of <em>The Tales of Beedle the Bard</em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

One J.K. Rowling’s hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

This time around, the sale price was at the low end of the pre-sale estimate of £300,000–500,000 ($380,000–633,000). By comparison, the chair Rowling sat in to write the first two books, which she painted in advance of a charity auction, sold for $394,000 at Heritage Auctions New York on April 6, easily eclipsing earlier sales of $21,000 and $29,000.

The manuscript is bound in brown Moroccan leather with rhodochrosite stones set in hand-chased silver ornaments, an ominous skull in the center of the cover. It is inscribed by the author with a note reading “To Barry, the man who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell… THANK YOU.” At the book’s end, Rowling noted that rhodochrosite is “traditionally associated with love, balance, and joy in daily life.”

One J.K. Rowling's hand-illustrated copies of <em>The Tales of Beedle the Bard</em>. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

One J.K. Rowling’s hand-illustrated copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Receiving the book back in 2007 was “unreal,” and became “progressively more exciting” as he unwrapped it, Cunningham recalled in a statement. The buyer also gets the white jiffy envelope in which the package was originally delivered.


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