Harry Potter Series

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With over 500 million books sold in 80 languages, the Harry Potter series by author J.K. Rowling has become the best-selling book series in history. The story chronicles the life of the titular character Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger through their seven years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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On the origins of the series, J.K. Rowling stated:

It was 1990. My then boyfriend and I had decided to move up to Manchester together. After a weekend’s flat-hunting, I was traveling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.

I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…

I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.

Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.

The story focuses on Harry’s quest to defeat the most evil wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort, who killed his parents when Harry was only 1 year old. The main theme of the books, according to Rowling, is death; however, the story also focuses on friendship, right versus wrong, prejudice, corruption, and much more.

Originally, the manuscript was turned down by several agents but was eventually accepted by the Christopher Little Agency. In August of 1996, after the manuscript was turned down by several publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing purchased the rights and released Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in June of 1997.

In April of 1997, Christopher Little had arranged an auction for American publishing rights at the Bologna Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. Arthur A. Levine, the editorial director of Scholastic Books, won the auction for the American rights, changed the title of the first book to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and released the book in September of 1998.

In March 2001, Rowling wrote the two “schoolbooks” of Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Comic Relief charity raising over £17 million. Today, every copy of the Bloomsbury edition sold generates a donation of £1.15 towards the charity.

On July 21, 2007, the finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released worldwide to celebrated acclaim with sales of 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of release, breaking down to 2.7 million copies in the UK and 8.3 million in the United States.

The entire series of seven books was made into eight blockbuster movies by Warner Bros. and became the highest-grossing film series of all-time.

In 2007, Rowling constructed seven handwriting copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard giving six of them to individuals that were instrumental to her success and the final one to be auctioned off for charity to benefit the Children’s High Level Group (CHLG). The book sold for £1.95 million to the online retailer, Amazon. On December 4, 2008, the book of fairy tales went on sale and was another major success thanks for the CHLG to a mountain of pre-orders. In the first week, 2.6 million books were sold worldwide generating £4.2 million for institutionalized children across Europe.

In 2008, Rowling submitted an 800-word untitled story as part of a charity event held by Waterstones called “What’s Your Story?”. The story recounts an adventure by Harry Potter characters Sirius Black and James Potter, Harry’s godfather and father respectively, prior to Harry Potter’s birth. The story was sold for £25,000 to Hira Digpal, the president of a Tokyo-based investment company.

On December 6, 2013, Bloomsbury announced that Jim Kay would be the illustrator for new fully illustrated editions of all seven of the Harry Potter books. Jim Kay was the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2012 for his illustrations in the book A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. The illustrated editions for Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban were released in October 2015, October 2016, and October 2017 respectively. Both Bloomsbury and Scholastic initially announced that the illustrated editions would be published one per year but Jim Kay is being given more time in order to illustrate Goblet of Fire, due to it being significantly longer than the first three books. Its expected release date is for sometime in 2019. The illustrated editions were initially published in more than 21 languages around the world.

Illustrators

Clare Melinsky

Clare has been an illustrator for over thirty years. Her work can be seen on packaging, magazines, and newspapers. She also created the cover illustrations for Shakespeare’s plays for Penguin Books. In 2009, she worked for ten months on a new set of covers for all seven of the signature editions of the Harry Potter novels. Clare admits Harry Potter covers were the most high-profile job she’s ever done.

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Giles Greenfield

Born in 1963, Giles Greenfield holds an illustration degree from Kingston Polytechnic. As of 2008, he was living in Devon.

Before Harry Potter, Greenfield worked as a storyboard artist for advertising agencies in London. One of his first jobs was illustrating the initial Classic FM radio advertising campaign. After that, he worked with Hobson’s publishing and the magazines WineDirector, and Tax Journal.

Giles illustrated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Greenfield was supposed to create the cover for the fifth book as well but unfortunately didn’t finish it due to his daughter, Sasha, being diagnosed with a terminal genetic illness. Read more about Giles Greenfield and his illustrations in the MuggleNet article here.

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Jonny Duddle

Jonny Duddle

Jonny Duddle is a Welsh illustrator who grew up roaming the mountains and beautiful landscapes of North Wales. He also spent much of that time drawing and creating his own beautiful worlds on paper.

After studying illustration in college, followed by a stint of unusual jobs, he eventually became a designer for computer games. It was while doing this that Jonny wrote and illustrated his first picture book, The Pirate Cruncher, in 2009. He followed this up with 2012’s The Pirates Next Door, for which he was awarded the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. He would go on that year to work for Aardman Animations in animating their critically acclaimed film The Pirates! His artwork is created using a blend of pencil and digital drawing techniques.

In 2014, Bloomsbury contacted Duddle about illustrating a new set of covers for the entire Harry Potter series. These beautiful covers were released the same year. In 2017, Duddle also illustrated covers for the Hogwarts Library series.

To read more about Duddle’s ideas and inspirations for his cover, check out our exclusive interview with him here.

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Jason Cockroft


Jason Cockcroft is a highly talented illustrator who was enlisted to illustrate the final three Harry Potter books for Bloomsbury. He was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but his family returned to Leeds when he was a baby. He graduated from Falmouth School of Art in Cornwell in 1994. While he was a student, his work was noticed by publishers and agents. He won the first-ever Blue Peter Award in 2000 for A Pilgrim’s Progress. He is also the illustrator of Billywise and Daddy’s Lullaby. Not only is he an illustrator, but he is also an author, an accomplished watercolour artist and portrait painter. His work has been exhibited in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and London. In 2009, his first children’s novel, Counter Clockwise, was published in the US.

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Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson

Andrew Timothy Davidson is a British illustrator and designer, born on May 13, 1958. He studied graphic design at the Royal College of Art in London, graduating in 1982 and is well known for his gouache paintings and wood-engraved artwork. He specializes in handcrafting, working with French and Japanese made paper, engraving on English boxwood and printing blocks on an 1859 Albion hand press.

He has worked on a diverse range of projects from designing UK’s Royal Mail postage stamps to the glass doors at Wimbledon’s Centre Court and has worked with clients like HarperCollins, Penguin Books, Rolex and HRH Prince of Wales Duchy Originals to name a few. He has illustrated two novels by Ted Hughes, and they won the Kurt Maschler Award for the 1985 edition of The Iron Man. He has also worked on the 2002 edition of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. You can view more of his work on his official website.

In 2013, Bloomsbury and Webb&Webb approached him to illustrate the book covers for the adult edition of the Harry Potter series, now available in both paperback and hardback formats. Davidson handcrafted wood engravings on nine by seven-inch English boxwood and printed them onto Japanese paper, creating a perfect effect. He revealed that he wanted them to look “as if they had come straight from the pages of a book taken from the library at Hogwarts.” He took two months to complete the project, and each illustration depicts a key scene, character or setting from that book, interspersed with hidden clues. In his words, “each image aims to capture the spirit and setting of each book – as the stories become darker, so do the engravings.” The result is a beautifully detailed set of hand-engraved illustrations that stands out on shelves.
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Mary GrandPré

Mary GrandPré

Mary GrandPré is an American illustrator from South Dakota. She was born in February 1954 and began drawing five short years afterwards. Inspired by all types of art, from Mickey Mouse to Salvador Dalí to the stained glass windows in her church, she attended Pomona College as a fine arts major and later went to Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her art is created completely by hand. Eventually, she created a style she refers to as “soft geometry.”

After dedicating some time to getting her artwork noticed in the professional arena, GrandPré was spotted by several magazines and advertising agencies. Her work was featured in Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. Her work also caught the eye of a DreamWorks executive, who invited her to work on their upcoming movie, Antz.

It was around the same time that Scholastic’s David Saylor contacted GrandPré in regards to illustrating the Harry Potter series. Initially, GrandPré declined the offer, citing her busy schedule as the reason she couldn’t make time to draw pictures of a boy wizard and his adventures. Saylor, however, was finally able to convince GrandPré to take the job. She went on to illustrate each of the covers of the American editions of Harry Potter, as well as the drawings that precede the title of each chapter.

In terms of her process for the series, GrandPré would receive scripts for the books prior to their release. As she read through them, she would mark those scenes she thought would make for the best illustrations. She would then create a selection of sketches that would be sent to the editors, who would decide which would appear in the final publications.

GrandPré has illustrated many other childrens’ books, including Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat by Jennifer Armstrong, Henry and Pawl and the Round Yellow Ball which she cowrote with her husband Tom Casmer, and The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, for which she received a Caldecott honor award in 2015.

She is still active today, working in advertising, book illustrations, and fine art exhibits.

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Olly Moss

Olly Moss

Oliver Jonathan Moss is a Winchester, UK- based graphic artist born on January 24, 1987. He studied literature at the University of Birmingham. Illustration was merely a hobby for him, but he started receiving commissions through the internet and eventually gained popularity. He enjoys recreating movie posters, and his works have often been displayed as limited edition collectibles by Mondo and the Empire magazine. He has made posters for the cast of Thor and the Star Wars films among others, and done cover artwork for the video game Resistance 3. He was also the art director for the game Firewatch.

Pottermore commissioned him to design covers for the first Harry Potter e-book series in 2015. His “Optical Illusions” set was published for the same, and his “Hogwarts” set was used for the German audiobook edition. He later tweeted about three other sets of unreleased covers called “Heraldry”, “Silhouettes”, and “Illustrated”. He has incorporated multiple layers of hidden meanings in his work without accidentally spoiling the book. In collaboration with Pottermore, he released a set of “Travel” posters in 2016 depicting the Hogwarts castle during the events of each book. He has redesigned the cover of the Fantastic Beasts e-book for Pottermore in 2017.

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Kazu Kibusishi


Kazuhiro “Kazu” Kibuishi, born April 8, 1978, is an American graphic novel author and illustrator. Kibuishi was asked to illustrate the covers for the Harry Potter novels for inclusion in the 15th anniversary edition box set from Scholastic. He was born in Toyoko, Japan and moved to the United States with his mother and brother in 1982. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2000 with a B.A. in film studies. He is the founder and editor of the Flight Anthologies, a critically acclaimed comics series, as well as the creator of Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, a winner of the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award. He is married to fellow illustrator and collaborator Amy Kim Ganter. They have two children together and reside in Bellevue, Washington.

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Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold, born in the Forest of Dean, and graduated from Falmouth University in 2006, has won many prestigious awards for his works. He enjoys music and occasionally plays the banjo. He has published his award-winning picture books The Django, Black Dog, and Greenling and has worked on the illustrations for The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold. He has also illustrated a few scenes inspired by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. You can have a look at all his works on his official website.

He has illustrated the covers of the special 20th anniversary House Editions of the Potter book series, both hardback and paperback and has adorned them with individual nuances. The hardback editions have sprayed, striped pages resembling the House scarves and the paperback versions are available in the different House colors. He has illustrated the House common rooms among others found inside the respective books. The stylized realism of his illustrations and the symbolism behind each feature has attracted the attention of all readers. He was one of the 20 illustrators to make an exclusive postcard-sized illustration of “Patronus creatures” to be auctioned off for charity, organized by Bloomsbury and BookTrust to mark 20 years of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Check out what else we have to say about Levi Pinfold’s contribution to Potter.

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Brian Selznick

Born on July 14, 1966, Brian Selznick is an American illustrator and writer. He is best known for The Invention of Hugo Gabret, The Marvels, and Wonderstruck. Brain grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey, where he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. Following his graduation, Brian worked in Manhattan for Eeyore’s Books for Children. While he worked there, Brian published is first book, The Houdini Box.

In 2008, Brian won the Caldecott Medal from the American Library Association for the year’s best Illustrated picture book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was adapted as a film, Hugo, and released in November 2011.

Selznick was chosen to illustrate the Harry Potter series to celebrate 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.

To read more about Brian’s ideas and inspirations for his cover, check out story on Brian Selznick here.

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Thomas Taylor

Illustrator Thomas Taylor

Thomas Taylor was born in 1973 and grew up in Wales. His interest in drawing began in childhood. He attended the Norwich School of Art and Design. Thomas Taylor’s first commissioned job as was as an illustrator for a new and unknown author, J.K. Rowling. When Taylor accepted the illustrator project from Bloomsbury, he had no way of knowing how many people would eventually see his cover art. Thomas Taylor illustrated the original cover art for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He is an author and illustrator of children’s books, picture books, and YA novels.

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Cliff Wright

Illustrator Cliff Wright proudly holds two Harry Potter books

Cliff Wright is an artist of many mediums- drawing, painting, and sculpting. He was born in England in 1963. He has been an illustrator since the 1980s. Wright is a visionary and brings words to life with his detailed illustrations. He has illustrated numerous books and advertisements.

Cliff Wright was already a well established and experienced illustrator when he was given the task of illustrating original UK editions of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His work on the Harry Potter series included two book covers as well as a few images within the books. His illustrations within the books included Hedwig and Padfoot (Siris Black in canine form). Wright put his touch on how Harry Potter looks and drafted Buckbeak until perfection.

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Trivia
  • It is said that J.K. Rowling sent her preliminary copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to twelve publishers before it was accepted and published by Bloomsbury.
  • There is a dinosaur that has been named Dracorex hogwartsia, with Hogwartsia being based on the name of Hogwarts, in honor of the series. The name translates to “Dragon King of Hogwarts.” Coincidentally, the dinosaur’s name also contains the word “draco,” but it has nothing to do with a Harry Potter book character sharing the name.
  • With the exception of the first and third books, there is always a chapter with the same name as the book.
  • Also, with the exception of the third book, there is always at least one character that dies in the final chapter(s) of the books (although in the second book this is a basilisk, not a human character).
  • In September 2012, J.K. Rowling admitted to having rushed work on some of the Harry Potter novels due to tight deadlines, and floated the possibility of someday releasing “director’s cut” editions of the novels.
  • From 2000-2009, the Harry Potter books was the top of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the Decade.