Watercolour for first Harry Potter book up for auction at ‘record estimate’

An original watercolour for Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone has been put up for auction with an estimate of more than £400,000.

The illustration, by Thomas Taylor, on the first book in JK Rowling’s fantasy series featured on the covers of the debut edition of the novel in 1997.

Sotheby’s announced on Thursday that it is auctioning the work with an estimate of 400,000-600,000 US dollars (£320,420-£480,630).

The auction house said this is “highest pre-sale estimate ever placed on an item of any Harry Potter-related work”.

Sotheby’s will be offering the original watercolor illustration for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Sotheby’s will be offering the original watercolour illustration for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sotheby’s)

“It takes me back to the experience of reading Harry Potter for the first time — one of the first people in the world to do so — and the process of creating what is now an iconic image.

“As I write and illustrate my own stories today, I am proud to look back on such magical beginnings.”

When he was 23 years old, his first professional commission was the Potter book after being asked to illustrate the character by Barry Cunningham at Bloomsbury.

Taylor took two days to complete the illustration and used concentrated watercolours on cold-pressed watercolour paper, and outlined with black Karisma pencil.

He was among the first to read the manuscript before drawing the depiction of the budding wizard, with his dark hair, round glasses, and lightning bolt scar, on his way to Hogwarts on board the train.

Richard Austin, Sotheby’s global head of books and manuscripts, said: “It is hard to convey the impact of this illustration by Thomas Taylor, created in 1997, for the then-unknown novel Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

“Instantly recognisable today, Taylor’s work serves as the visual blueprint for the boy wizard who has since inspired millions worldwide.

“Taylor’s charming work has become a vital addition to what is now the most beloved children’s book series in history, perfectly capturing the enchanting and nostalgic universe of Harry Potter.”

Taylor’s illustration was first offered at auction in 2001 at Sotheby’s London, when only the first four books in the series were published, and was estimated at £20,000 to £25,000 before being sold at £85,750.

A first edition copy of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone sold for 421,000 US dollars (£337,238) at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, which is thought to be the highest price recorded for an item from the fantasy series.

Also being sold by Sotheby’s New York Fine Books and Manuscripts Auction is an original manuscript for The Tales Of Beedle The Bard, also by Rowling – which she originally created in 2007 as gifts for people who helped with the publication of Harry Potter and for charity.

The item, estimated at 250,000-350,000 US dollars (£200,260 to £280,364), has a note for Mr Cunningham which reads: “To Barry, the man who thought an overlong novel about a boy wizard in glasses might just sell… Thank you.”

Also being auctioned are several presentation copies of the Harry Potter series, including Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets.

The works will be sold on June 26 as part of sale of other literature at Sotheby’s in New York.

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