Back in 1995, J.K. Rowling wrote a synopsis of the first “Harry Potter” book to send to publishers, and it was flatly rejected. Today, 20 years after the beloved series was finally published, the world can read the summary so many passed up.
The synopsis is on display as part of the British Library’s “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” exhibition celebrating the series’ 20th anniversary.
But for those fans who might not be able to make it to the U.K., Scholastic is offering a chance to experience the magic with the new book Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic. Inside the book is a copy of that rejected first synopsis, written by Rowling for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
“Over a period of nigh on a year, the book was turned down by more or less every major publishing house in the U.K.,” Rowling’s first agent, Christopher Little, previously told HuffPost. “Various reasons were given including the story being too long, the fact that a story set in a children’s boarding school might feel too ‘exclusive’ to many readers, etc.”
The submission ― which included the synopsis above and the opening chapters of the first book ― ultimately “captured the interest of the Bloomsbury editorial team.” The book was eventually published in the U.K. in 1997 by Bloomsbury and published in 1998 in the U.S. under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Rowling has been open about what those rejections taught her.
The hard copy of the synopsis is currently on display at the British Library exhibit until Feb. 28, 2018.
Read the full synopsis below:
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 madrakes and wolfsbane are kept, potions down in the dungeons with the loathsome Severus Snape. Harry, Ron and Hermione discover the schoool’s secret passageways, learn how to deal with Peeves the poltergeist and how to tackle an angry mountain troll: best of all, Harry becomes a star player at Quidditch (wizard football played on broomsticks).
What interest Harry and his friends most, though, is why the corridor on the third floor is so heavily guarded. Following up a clue dropped by Hagrid (who, when he is not delivering letters, is Hogwarts’ gamekeeper), they discover that the only Philosopher’s Stone in existence is being kept at Hogwarts, a stone with powers to give limitless wealth and eternal life. Harry, Ron and Hermione seem to be the only people who have realised that Snape the potions master is planning to steal the stone - and what terrible things it could do in the wrong hands. For the Philosopher’s Stone is all that is needed to bring Voldemort back to full strength and power ... it seems Harry has come to Hogwarts to meet his parents’ killer face to face - with no idea how he survived last time ...