I remember two things about the Harry Potter novels—besides the fantastic writing—from my youth. First, they were a great way for me to remain entertained during my older brother’s hockey practices, much to the delight of my father. Second, I recall the colorful cover art that drew me into reading each of the books I owned. What I did not realize was that the illustrations on the covers of my books were not the only versions that drew a multitude of people into reading the imaginative adventures of the boy wizard. While I was reading Scholastic’s American edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and my first image of Harry was him flying on a broomstick underneath a golden arch, people in Britain were introduced to Harry as he stood in front of his first train to Hogwarts, excited to start the life of a wizard.
By this point in time, there has been a wealth of cover art released for the series, like Scholastic’s fifteenth anniversary edition in 2013, designed by Kazu Kibuishi. Releasing this new artwork sparked interest in the books again for both former and new readers. More recently, publishers decided to take renewed artwork far past the cover. For the newest release, the publisher wanted to shift how readers would experience the series entirely, by adding illustrations on nearly every page. How immersive would reading the series be for someone if there were illustrations coinciding with the reading? As long as the artist gets it right—very immersive.
Creating illustrations for the world’s most successful book series was not without its stresses for award-winning illustrator Jim Kay, for obvious reasons. But that pressure seemed to work well for Kay, because a quick view of some of the images from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Illustrated Edition shows that Kay took his role seriously, and improved the way in which a reader would interact with the book.
For the Sorcerer’s Stone alone, Jim Kay created more than 115 images, using mediums like pencil, charcoal, wax crayons, house paint, oil paint and acrylic paint. Just think, by the time the illustrated edition of each installment of the series is published (one is due to come out every year, ending in 2021), Kay may have produced nearly a thousand images, each one with its own unique look to captivate readers. I can only imagine how I could have further lost myself in the series if these illustrations were in the books when I was younger, even with the sound of pucks smacking plexiglass all around me.
Did You Know?
For the extreme Potter fan, Bloomsbury has released a deluxe edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Illustrated Edition. It includes a “pullout double gatefold of Diagon Alley; intricate foiled line art by Jim Kay on the real cloth cover and slipcase; gilt edges on premium grade paper; head and tail bands; and two ribbon markers.”