TIME: J. K. Rowling Sketches for ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’

weasleysIn yesterday’s relatively lengthy post about the intertextual connection between Harry Potter and the Molesworth books of Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, I chose Searle’s illustrations for decoration without mentioning what a part they play in the four schoolboy satires. Molesworth is almost a comic book or graphic novel; Searles pictures of the faculty, headmaster, Grabber the Headboy, and our anti-hero Nigel fill up as many pages as Willans’ text. As important, the spidery, grotesque figures, all of whom look like refugees from a Gothic feature film back lot, color the acidic commentary of boy Molesworth on life at St Custard’s and give it its third dimension.

quidditchLate last month, a frenetic period at Pottermore, Jo Rowling dumped eight pictures she drew while writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for our amusement and consideration. You can see the whole set of illustrations at TIME magazine’s online post about the event. It seems clear from Rowling’s work that at one time she thought of making the book either a relatively conventional children’s book with a host of pictures to guide the imagination or another Molesworth, i.e., a book for adults about childhood which children might also enjoy.

Three quick notes:

harry-at-dursleys(1) The existence of these pictures is not news. There are more to be revealed, a lot more. Rowling sold an annotated and illustrated copy of Philosopher’s Stone at auction for charity in 2013, a copy with 43 pages of notes and pictures. If I had paid what the winning bidder did — just over $200,000 — I’m not sure how I’d feel about her sharing what I paid that much to own as my precious. Probably hopeful that she’d just raised the re-sale value.

privet-harry(2) Rowling has said that she does not see Daniel Radcliffe’s face when she thinks of Harry Potter, one more thing to put in the file ‘Things Only True of The Presence.’ Her early pictures bear up this statement, if those of us whose imaginative idea of Harry was forever obliterated by Warner Brothers Harry can see boy Radcliffe if we squint. Du Pre’s pictures seem to derive at least in part from these sketches.

snape(3) You gotta love the pointy hats and monastic rasson everyone wears, right? Imagine if that look had survived in the book illustrations and the movies. Would Fandom cosplay require the stiff, conical black hat of Rowling’s original conception? Would you see them in the streets of larger cities on the heads of devotees? Ah, if only…

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