Auctions | May 20, 2013

J.K. Rowling’s Annotated First Edition of Harry Potter at Auction

May 18 2013 — English PEN and Sotheby’s are delighted to release additional details on the sale of the definitive first edition of J.K. Rowling’s first book. The freely annotated first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — with numerous comments by the author on the process of writing and and the editorial decisions involved will be offered for sale as part of the First Editions, Second Thoughts auction to be held on 21st May 2013 at Sotheby’s London.

Dr Philip W. Errington, Director of Printed Books & Manuscripts at Sotheby’s, said: “This can undoubtedly be regarded as the definitive copy of any Harry Potter book. Not only is it a fine copy of a first edition of the first book, but the author has significantly personalised it with numerous written comments and many impressive and evocative illustrations. The personality of the author leaps from these pages and we are treated to a remarkable insight into her creative genius.”

Gillian Slovo, President of English PEN, said ‘We are hugely indebted to J.K. Rowling for her generosity to PEN in making this exquisite contribution to the charity sale.’ 

J.K. Rowling’s personal annotations include references to the Harry Potter series as a whole and also the film adaptations, and include “second thoughts” on 43 pages (1100 words in total) in addition to approximately 22 of her own impressive illustrations.

Further to the more familiar ruminations on the writing of Harry Potter, such as: “I wrote the book... in snatched hours, in clattering cafés or in the dead of night. For me, the story of how I wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is written invisibly on every page, legible only to me...” Rowling also provides commentary on: the dedication she included in the opening of the book; the unpopularity of her opening chapter; an anomaly in chapter four about snapped wands; a section of text she refused to cut; whether she dreams about her characters; a section from an early draft of the novel and the revelation of the genesis of the game of Quidditch.

“[Quidditch] was invented in a small hotel in Manchester after a row with my then boyfriend. I had been pondering the things that hold a society together, cause it to congregate and signify its particular character and knew I needed a sport. It infuriates men...which is quite satisfying given my state of mind when I invented it.”

J.K. Rowling’s personal illustrations on the pages of the first edition include a sleeping baby Harry on the Dursleys’ door step, an Albus Dumbledore Chocolate Frog card, a brooding Snape, Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback dragon, the mirror of erised, and a man with two faces.

All the works from First Edition, Second Thoughts will be on public exhibition at Sotheby’s London galleries, from 20-21st May 2013. The auction itself will take place at 7.30pm on 21 May 2013. 


First Editions, Second Thoughts is a ground-breaking auction in which 50 of the UK and Commonwealth’s most outstanding contemporary writers have annotated, commented on or illustrated a first edition copy of one of their works. J K Rowling is one of the 50 authors who include Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Helen Fielding, Nadine Gordimer, Kazuo Ishiguo, Ian McEwan, Philip Pullman and Tom Stoppard. Proceeds from the auction benefit English PEN, a registered charity. Note that proceeds from the sale of the annotated Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone will be shared: 67% of the sale of the book to benefit English PEN; 33% to benefit Lumos Foundation, a charity founded by J K Rowling which works to support the eight million children in institutions worldwide to regain their right to a family life.

The online catalogue can be viewed at

For more information on the sale, a dedicated press release is available upon request.


English PEN, a registered charity, is the founding centre (1921) of a worldwide writers’ association with centres in over 100 countries. Its members are writers, literary professionals, journalists, publishers and all those passionate about the freedom to write and the freedom to read. English PEN works to identify and dismantle barriers between writers and readers, whether cultural, political, linguistic or economic.


Sotheby’s was founded in London in 1744, when Samuel Baker auctioned ‘several hundred scarce and valuable books’ from the library of the Rt Hon Sir John Stanley for a few hundred pounds. Today Sotheby’s maintains 90 locations in 40 countries and conducts 250 auctions each year in over 70 categories.