It was 20 years ago this week that a boy wizard with a scar on his forehead entered our world through the pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or Sorcerer's Stone as it is known in the United States). Author J.K. Rowling's captivating adventures of #HarryPotter and his confrontations with the evil wizard Voldemort would go on to thrill millions of readers through seven successful sequels, including last year's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Not to mention eight corresponding top-grossing films, three theme parks, and one critically acclaimed West End play.)
If you are reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the first time, or are planning to re-read it for the umpteenth time, here are 10 things to take note of:
1. A First-Edition Hardback Is Worth $$$
Because of the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series, the first editions of #JKRowling's books have become sought-after collectibles, especially Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
According to The Guardian, only 500 hardback copies were published in the first print-run in 1997, and 300 of these went to libraries. If you have a 1997 hardback, check if the print line on the copyright page reads "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1." If so, it can be worth up to £30,000 (US$38,193). Depending on the condition, paperback first editions are also collectibles and can attract four to five-figure prices.
2. Philosopher Or Sorcerer?
The American edition was published a year later in 1998 and the title was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as the American publishers believed that a child would not want to read a book with the word "philosopher" in the title. Nonetheless, just like in England, it went on to sweep many children's book awards, including hitting the New York Times' best-seller list, the first children's book to do so since E.B. White's Charlotte's Web in the 1950s.
Collectors are also keen on American first edition hardcover prints, which have been priced between US$4,000 and US$6,500 (with some signed by the author). According to The Telegraph, US first editions will have the number line of "1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 8 9/9 0/0 01 02" on the copyright page, along with “Printed in the U.S.A. 23" and "First American edition, October 1998."
3. The First Mention Of Harry's Godfather
In Philosopher's Stone, the key people who will primarily feature in Harry's life are introduced within the first chapter — Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall and, to a certain extent, the Dursleys. Another person of significance is only mentioned by name. No, we are not referring to "He Who Shall Not Be Named" Voldemort, who does appear (somewhat) towards the end of the book.
When Hagrid makes his entrance on a motorcycle, he casually says that he borrowed it off "young Sirius Black." It may seem insignificant then but it is actually the first mention of Harry’s godfather, who would go on to become a very important person to Harry beginning with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
4. Dumbledore’s Deluminator
Also in the first chapter, Dumbledore's Deluminator is the very first magical object we see in action when he uses it to turn off the street lamps in Privet Drive. Years down the road, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Deluminator was left to Ron Weasley in Dumbledore’s will. While trying to retrieve the Sword of Hogwarts in an icy pond, Harry is almost drowned by the Horcrux, only to be rescued in time by Ron, who was guided to Harry's location by the Deluminator.
5. Harry’s Wand
At Ollivanders Wand Shop in Diagon Valley, Harry didn't exactly choose his wand; rather, the wand chose him. More fascinating is the wand maker's revelation that the phoenix that provided the feather in the wand’s core also provided a feather for Voldermort's wand.
At that moment, Harry has no clue of the connection between the two wands, but in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the shared cores would save the young wizard's life when his and Voldemort’s wands create the "Priori Incantatem" effect, a reverse spell that causes the loser's wand (in this case, Voldemort's) to "echo" its previous spells in reverse order.
6. Gringotts And Griphook
The Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Diagon Valley is also where Harry discovers that someone has left him a small fortune in gold. Harry also meets Griphook the goblin, who brings him to his vault for the first time and who will play a surprisingly vital role during Harry’s Horcrux quest in The Deathly Hallows.
7. The Sorting Hat's Gut Feeling
At the Hogwarts House Sorting Ceremony, Harry desperately wants to be in Gryffindor, but The Sorting Hat tells him that Slytherin is more suitable for him as he can accomplish great things there. When Harry persists, The Sorting Hat reluctantly places him in Gryffindor.
This decision would return to haunt Harry in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as he faces "Heir of Slytherin" rumors and discovers he can speak Parseltongue, a trait he shares with Voldemort.
8. Harry’s Golden Snitch
In Deathly Hallows, Harry was given a Quidditch Snitch in Dumbledore’s will. When he hands the Snitch to Harry, Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour explains that Snitches remember the touch of the first human to handle them. He's hinting that it is the same Golden Snitch in Philosopher’s Stone that Harry caught by almost swallowing it during his first Quidditch match.
"I open at the close" is the message the Snitch reveals when Harry put its to his lips. Later, when Harry whispers, "I am about to die," the Snitch opens to reveal the second of the three Deathly Hallows — the Resurrection Stone — which allows Harry the chance to see his loved ones before facing Voldemort in a death match.
9. Snape's Bezoar Remark
Nobody — not even Harry — liked Professor Snape at the start, and how wrong we all were! In Harry's first Potions lesson, Snape flippantly remarks that a bezoar is a stone-like mass taken from a goat's stomach that can be used as an antidote against most poisons.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry's mysterious copy of Advanced Potion Making, has a message scribbled on a page about antidotes: "Just shove a bezoar down their throats." Harry doesn’t know then that the book actually belonged to Snape, but when Ron is poisoned by oak-matured mead that was intended for Professor Dumbledore, he remembers this instruction and finds a bezoar in time to shove it down Ron's throat.
10. The Final Deathly Hallow
During his first Christmas at Hogwarts, Harry receives an Invisibility Cloak as a gift, which previously belonged to his father. It is easily one of the coolest magical items in Philosopher's Stone as the wearer can get in and out of Hogwarts without being noticed.
In The Deathly Hallows however, the cloak carries new significance. Hermione Granger, who inherited Dumbledore's copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard in his will, reads "The Tale of the Three Brothers." After reading it, the trio soon learns that the cloak is actually the final Deathly Hallow (after the Elder Wand and Resurrection Stone), created to survive any curse or charm. And to think that while trying to rescue a baby dragon in Philosopher's Stone, Harry and Hermione hastily left a Deathly Hallow behind at Hogwarts' tallest tower.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was made into a full-length feature film in 2001. Remember the scenes when the book came alive for you in this trailer:
What is your favorite Harry Potter moment(s) in the series? Let us know in the comments!