Within the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learn of the collection of wizarding fairy-tales by Beedle the Bard. In chapter seven Albus Dumbledore bequeaths his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard to Hermione ('in the hope that she will find it entertaining and instructive') and in chapter twenty-one Hermione reads aloud 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' from the collection. Apparently, the tales 'have been popular bedtime reading for centuries' and, as a result, 'the Hopping Pot and the Fountain of Fair Fortune are as familiar to many of the students at Hogwarts as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are to Muggle (non-magical) children.'
After writing the final novel in the series, J.K. Rowling decided to create The Tales of Beedle the Bard and give a manuscript copy in her hand to 'those most closely connected to the Harry Potter books during the past 17 years'. A seventh copy was also written for sale at auction and that book was sold at Sotheby's on 13 December 2007 to benefit the charity now known as Lumos. The sale price of £1.95 million is still a world record for a modern literary manuscript and a world record for a children's book. The successful buyer was amazon and the book, in an enlarged form (with additional 'commentary'), was published in 2008.
The present copy is the first of the original manuscript presentation copies ever to be offered for sale at auction. It was presented to Barry Cunningham, who accepted the first Harry Potter book for publication. It is copy number three and includes the inscription 'To Barry, | the man who thought | an overlong novel | about a boy wizard | in glasses might | just sell… | THANK YOU'. This is therefore A SIGNIFICANT ASSOCIATION COPY AND A MAJOR PIECE OF HARRY POTTER HISTORY. The book was sent by courier to Barry Cunningham on 12 December 2007 (the day before the charity auction at Sotheby's) and the original envelope is included in the lot. The other recipients have never been named although Rowling's American publisher, Arthur A. Levine, exhibited his copy (number 5) at New York Public Library in December 2008. The present copy was also exhibited at the same time but at the National Library of Scotland.
The individual tales within the manuscript comprise: 'The Wizard and the Hopping Pot' (24 pages and c. 1010 words), 'The Fountain of Fair Fortune' (35 pages and c. 1465 words), 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' (29 pages and c. 1100 words), 'Babbity Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump' (43 pages and c. 1670 words) and, finally, 'The Tale of the Three Brothers' (17 pages and c. 670 words).
Each of the seven copies was uniquely embellished by Hamilton and Inches, inspired by an ancient Italian prayer book, and set with different kinds of gemstones. This copy carries seven mounted rhodochrosite stones. At the end of the volume, the author has noted that these stones are 'traditionally associated with love, balance and joy in daily life'.
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