To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, several people involved in its acquisition and publication have been speaking to The Guardian. They discuss the extreme lengths they had to go to protect the manuscripts, once the book series became an international phenomenon.
They describe handing over the manuscript to Order of the Phoenix in a pub, with the book in a Sainsbury’s carrier bag – as if they were Russian spies. Tabloids engaged in dirty tactics to try to steal the manuscript from the printers; “One tabloid allegedly sent a guy with a briefcase with five grand in it to the printers and was stopping people as they came off shift saying: “Will you go and get me Harry Potter?” The landlady of the pub where he was staying heard this and alerted us, and we got the police there. It was one of many Harry Potter theft stories.”
“The worst one was with book six, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. One of the guards at the printers conducted an auction between the Sun and the Mirror. The reporter from the Sun decided to rescue the book.”
“The guard ran after him and shot him, deliberately wide. Meanwhile, the reporter from the Mirror rang the police and it took seven of them to restrain the guard, who was a body builder. The book was saved. The next day the Sun’s front page was: ‘I looked down the barrel of a gun – and thought I was about to die for the sake of Harry Potter.'”
Editor Emma Matthewson says; “I was given a laptop that had never been connected to the internet, so I had to back everything up on floppy disks. I would keep the manuscript and the disks under my bed. When I had friends round, if someone went up to the bathroom, I would find myself quietly following them, just in case. At that point in time reporters were going through Jo’s dustbins.”
“In the early days, after I finished working on it, I would take the script to a safety deposit box at Coutts bank. Eventually, Bloomsbury bought me the biggest safe that Banham could supply. It was so heavy we needed extra floor support upstairs, but at least I could go out.”
It’s hard to imagine if there will ever be a publishing phenomenon like Harry Potter again, the rise of the internet makes it seem unlikely. If you’re a fan of the books and movies, check out our guide to the best Harry Potter characters, ranked.