Harry Potter and the Bizarre Book Cover: 20 Years of Cover Art From Around the Globe
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone, if you’re American). Think about that for a moment: there is an entire generation of young adults old enough to drive, vote, drink and fight in wars (hopefully not all at the same time), who have never known a world in which Harry Potter doesn’t exist.
To mark the milestone, Bloomsbury has announced the release of a special edition of this, the first book in the Harry Potter series. The new edition will feature not just one, but a choice of four unique covers, specially designed by award-winning illustrator Levi Pinfold to reflect the colours, values and coat of arms of each of the four Hogwarts houses. I’m itching to get my hands on a Ravenclaw copy when they’re released in early June. (Just kidding! I’ll be getting all four.)
Here’s a peak at the Twentieth Anniversary hardback editions…
…and the paperback versions:
Of course, this is hardly the first time that the Harry Potter books have appeared under a different guise – but what is surprising is the sheer volume of cover art that has been produced for the boy wizard over the past two decades. With nearly 500 million copies sold in at least 68 languages, the number of covers associated with the series runs into the hundreds.
So, in celebration of Philosopher’s Stone entering its third decade, I’ve taken a look at some of the best – and most bizarre – Harry Potter book covers from all over the world.
I’ve always adored the adult editions of the Harry Potter series: there is something intriguing and elegant about the broody images that reflect the darker undertones of the novels:
The 2008 Black Deluxe Edition of the series, printed in Russian by Rosman Publishing, takes the atmospheric adulty-ness of these covers to another level, with original artwork designed by Mary GrandPré.
I’m a little obsessed with these and considering taking up Russian lessons:
Special mention goes to the sinister (but somehow still super-cute) owl on the cover of the Philosopher’s Stone translation…
… and the stunning rendering of the Hogwarts castle formed by the spines of the books when they’re sitting side by side. How good would that look on your bookshelf?!
The fully illustrated edition of Philosopher’s Stone, published in 2015 by Bloomsbury, also features an exquisitely detailed cover by Jim Kay. (Note to my husband: it’s my birthday next month. Just saying.)
The Junior Folio Editions, published in French in 2011, feature gorgeous cover illustrations by Jean-Claude Götting. A certain hero’s patronus is the star of the Prisoner of Azkaban cover:
In 2014, Spanish publisher Salamandra reissued the series with new artwork by Tiago da Silva. Refreshingly, da Silva didn’t offer up illustrated versions of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint when he reimagined the cover of Order of the Phoenix (though Ron kind of creeps me out in this one):
… and the bizarre
Some renditions of the Potter series have been less… shall we say… successful. Actually, a lot of them are downright peculiar. Take, for instance, the Ukranian edition of Deathly Hallows:
Putting aside the likeness of Harry to a misty-eyed Norse god, can we just talk about those dad jeans he’s (not) rocking? Or the uneven thigh gap he’s got going on? Why is his hand bigger than his head? What’s with the weird head on the snake? And what happened to Hermione’s forehead? I have so many questions.
The German children’s editions, meanwhile, each feature Harry – sporting tiny, comic book-villain spectacles – staring balefully out at the reader. Harry’s quizzically cocked eyebrow sums up my feelings pretty well here:
Then we have the Finnish editions, which reveal what Harry, Ron and Hermione looked like before they discovered the spell for nose jobs (rhinoplastiarmus, anyone?):
Danish cover designer, Per Jørgensen, clearly hates children and wants to give them nightmares:
And last but not least, we have the Italian version of Philosopher’s Stone, which features that famous scene from the novel where Harry plays chess against a giant rat, while he despondently dons a giant rat hat himself. You don’t remember that scene? … I don’t either.
The fabulous fans over at Harry Potter Wiki have amassed an exhaustive collection of Potter covers from around the globe – you can find it here, for your perusing pleasure.
A writer and editor by day, a ferocious reader by night: I spend my waking hours immersed in the deliciousness of words.
Together with my husband, I am the co-founder of Author Secret, an editorial and book production services company that specializes in helping self-publishing authors to get their novels out into the world. I'm also a proud mom to a bookworm-in-training, and can do a mean Gruffalo impression.
View all posts by Jenna Barlow