UBC acquires rare 1st edition of Harry Potter for roughly $47K Cdn

Staff at the UBC Library waved a magic wand and paid a few golden Galleons to obtain a very rare first U.K. edition of the original Harry Potter book.

U.K. first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will be kept in library reading room

More than 500 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide, though only 500 first editions of the original book were printed. (CBC)

Harry Potter fans in B.C. no longer need to catch the Hogwarts Express to London to get their hands on a rare first edition of the original hit book.

The UBC Library in Vancouver has just acquired a U.K. first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for $36,500 US, the equivalent of about $47,000 Cdn.

"We're pretty thrilled to have been able to purchase a copy of this particular book," said Katherine Kalsbeek, the head of Rare Books and Special Collections at the library.

"We weren't sure we were going to be able to ... because it seemed like we had started the collecting process a little too late."

In 2015, the library began collecting complete sets of the U.K., U.S. and Canadian first editions of the Harry Potter series for students studying children's literature and for the public.

The only book missing from the collection was the U.K. first printing of the first book — a particularly rare find because only 500 copies were originally published in 1997, 300 of which went to libraries.

Book to be kept in reading room

"It was printed in a very small print run because [author] J.K. Rowling was not well known either in England or at all internationally. She was just a new writer," said Kalsbeek.

"They didn't publish very many copies, because they weren't sure how popular it would be."

The seven novels in the Harry Potter series have since sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, she said.

J.K. Rowling was virtually unknown as an author when she began writing the Harry Potter series. (Scholastic/Wikimedia Commons)

Believe it or not, the $36,500 US the library paid is a bargain price, she says, considering some copies of the original book have sold for more than $100,000 at auctions.

UBC purchased its edition through a private New York bookseller.

"We were just thrilled that we were able to acquire one of the last copies that are available on the public market," said Kalsbeek.

Members of the public and students are invited to see the book themselves in the library's reading room but don't think of signing it out to take home.

"There are some security procedures, obviously," she said.

"You're not allowed to bring your Slurpee. You can't bring your coffee. We do ask that your hands are clean and we do ask people to put away their coats and their bags in lockers that we provide."

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Chris Walker.

About the Author

Jaimie Kehler

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.