All of the publishers that turned down J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter pitches back in the day are probably still kicking themselves 20 years later. The struggling author suffered rejection after rejection (12 publishing houses passed before Bloomsbury accepted, to be exact), but she never gave up on bringing the boy wizard we know and love to life.
The world is forever changed as a result of the Harry Potter series, but it all started with one synopsis that described what the novels would be about. The original summary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that Rowling sent to publishers is now on display at the British Library in London as a part of the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. The words will warm your Potter-loving heart and make you want to reread the books (again).
“Harry Potter lives with his aunt, uncle and cousin because his parents died in a car-crash – or so he has been told. The Dursleys don’t like Harry asking questions; in fact, they don’t seem to like anything about him, especially the very odd things that keep happening around him (which Harry himself can’t explain).
The Dursleys’ greatest fear is that Harry will discover the truth about himself, so when letters start arriving for him near his eleventh birthday, he isn’t allowed to read them. However, the Dursleys aren’t dealing with an ordinary postman, and at midnight on Harry’s birthday the gigantic Rubeus Hagrid breaks down the door to make sure Harry gets to read his post at last. Ignoring the horrified Dursleys, Hagrid informs Harry that he is a wizard, and the letter he gives Harry explains that he is expected at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in a month’s time.
To the Dursleys’ fury, Hagrid also reveals the truth about Harry’s past. Harry did not receive the scar on his forehead in a car-crash; it is really the mark of the great dark sorcerer Voldemort, who killed Harry’s mother and father but mysteriously couldn’t kill him, even though he was a baby at the time. Harry is famous among the witches and wizards who live in secret all over the country because Harry’s miraculous survival marked Voldemort’s downfall.
So Harry, who has never had friends or family worth the name, sets off for a new life in the wizarding world. He takes a trip to London with Hagrid to buy his Hogwarts equipment (robes, wand, cauldron, beginners’ draft and potion kit) and shortly afterwards, sets off for Hogwarts from Kings Cross Station (platform nine and three quarters) to follow in his parents’ footsteps.
Harry makes friends with Ronald Weasley (sixth in his family to go to Hogwarts and tired of having to use second-hand spellbooks) and Hermione Granger (cleverest girl in the year and the only person in the class to know all the uses of dragon’s blood). Together, they have their first lessons in magic – astronomy up on the tallest tower at two in the morning, herbology out in the greenhouses where the . . .”
The front page is the only one on display and cuts off at this point, but there are other pages that follow underneath. The exhibition has even more to offer, including nine rooms that explore the mythological and folklore traditions that inspired the author and notes written by Rowling herself. According to Business Insider, Harry Potter: A History of Magic has already sold 30,000 advance tickets, which is the most ever sold for a British Museum exhibit. What can we say? Harry Potter is simply timeless, and this synopsis is just another reminder of that fact.