Harry Potter galley sheets sell for thousands

An original, never before seen set of uncorrected galley sheets for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone sold at auction recently for £37,500 nearly double its pre-sale low estimate of £20,000.

The historic galley sheets were a highlight of Chiswick Auctions Fine Books & Works on Paper sale and instigated a frenzied bidding war, which eventually won out to a private collector bidding on the telephone from overseas.

A galley proof, or galley sheet, is a publishing term used for a printed (written or digital) version of an advance copy, or segment of a book. It is the version of a book before final proofreading and is often used for promotional purposes. In this case, the galley proof, which consisted of 224 numbered pages on 109 sheets, was sent from Rosamund Walker, the Marketing Manager of Bloomsbury Children’s Books, to Fiona Waters, the children’s book reviewer. Her letter accompanying the proof is dated 26th February 1997 and reads: ‘Dear Fiona // Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Joanne Rowling // ….I have enclosed a manuscript for your interest as promised……I would really appreciate if you would let me know your comments for pre-publication quotes’.

Fiona Waters’ reply to Rosamund Walker is dated 28th March 1997 and reads: ‘Dear Roz ….I just loved this book…..There is something about Harry Potter that reminds me of Charlie Buckett in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…’ Rosamund Walker’s reply to Fiona Waters reads: ‘Dear Fiona ….I can’t tell you how nice it is to hear such praise for Harry Potter and I am sure the author will be most flattered with the allusion to Charlie Buckett’. Fiona’s quote was used as a review on the back of the first edition of the book that was printed (one of which is also being offered in this sale).

Commenting on the sale of the galley proofs today, Clive Moss, Head of Chiswick Auctions Books, Manuscripts & Works on Paper department, said: “We are thrilled with the result of this only known surviving set of galley sheets today, which were on the market for the first time and caused quite a stir. We expected stiff competition for them, as they offered a unique insight into what was to become an iconic work in the history of literature.”