Rare $15,000 Harry Potter defeats Dante's Inferno in London

Bloomsbury's sale of rare books last Thursday May 13 (English & Continental Literature, History and other Antiquarian Books; Modern First Editions) took on a surprisingly dark side with witchcraft and hell showing a hold over the sale.

Or at least that might be the interpretation of some, as the two books which proved most covetable to the assembled audience, separated by several centuries and much else, were first editions of a work by Dante and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

The best performer of the sale was certainly the first edition, first issue of the small format version of DivinaCommedia, Le Terze Rime (The Inferno). The issue was bound with 18th century vellum over boards, spine with blind-stamped compartments and a dark green gilt leather label, lightly soiled.

Dante's Inferno
Dante's Divine Comedy

The copy includes the error of displaying Dante's second name as 'Alaghieri' (rather than Alighieri) on the verso of sub-title. It was previously the property of Joseph Smith, British Consul at Venice (1744-1760) who had a great passion for collecting rare books and manuscripts and printed lavish, limited edition books himself.

Estimated at £3,000-4,000, the work sold for £9,760.

The top lot for the sale however was a rare hard cover edition of J K Rowling's classic Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Only a few hundred of these were ever released and, as these were intended for libraries, most are in a somewhat dilapidated condition.

Not only does the copy sold at Bloomsbury not have any but the most trivial wear-and-tear marks, but it also escaped the usual library markings, pocketing and stamps. It was given a guide price of £12,000-18,000, and sold for £14,640 to a delighted collector.

Potter fans may wish to know that a first edition of The Philosopher's Stone, signed by J K Rowling, is currently available, as is a rare, unpublished work by her.


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