J.K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, and other British authors auction off annotated first editions

J.K. Rowling and other authors are selling first-edition copies of their books with annotations, written thoughts on the book, and/or illustrations to benefit the writers' organization English PEN.

By , Staff Writer

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    A first-edition of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' is the rarest of all the "Harry Potter" books because so few copies were printed for its first release.
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J.K. Rowling, Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan, Philip Pullman, and other British authors will auction off first-edition copies of their books with annotations, illustrations, or commentaries about their stories to benefit the British writers’ organization English PEN.

The auction will take place May 21, with 50 British writers contributing first-edition copies of their works with some sort of additions. Pullman’s novel “Northern Lights,” known as “The Golden Compass” in America, will be sold as well as Helen Fielding’s novel “Bridget Jones’s Diary," Roald Dahl’s children’s book “Matilda,” and Mantel's "Wolf Hall."

Rowling is contributing the first book in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” known as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US. As noted by Reuters, the book is the hardest to find of the "Harry Potter" series because it had the fewest copies released during its first printing.

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Authors Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Nadine Gordimer, and Tom Stoppard are also participating, among others.

Some of the annotations for the books are also available for viewing online through the website for the British newspaper the Guardian.

English PEN “defend[s] writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk,” explains the group's website.

The auction will be taking place at Sotheby’s and is arranged around a theme of “First Editions, Second Thoughts,” according to the English PEN website.

“In 40 years in the rare book trade I have never seen a collection of books to compare with those in this sale,” curator of the sale Rick Gekoski said in a statement on the site. Gekoski is also an English PEN trustee and works as a rare book dealer. “In many cases, the commentaries will affect how the book is to be read and understood in the future.”

Rowling’s copy of ““Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” includes some hand-drawn illustrations accompanying the story as well as her written thoughts and a 43-page piece on the theme of “second thoughts” about the book.

One of the author’s annotations reveals that she originally chose a bear to represent Hufflepuff House, one of Hogwart’s four houses, before settling on a badger.

“Perhaps Hufflepuff house would have the respect it deserves from the fans if I'd stayed with my original idea of a bear to represent it?” she wrote.

Meanwhile, Fielding wrote in the margins of “Bridget Jones’s Diary," “The BBC’s Pride and Prejudice was airing when I wrote. In love with Mr. Darcy like the rest of the female population.”

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