Foreign Cover Friday: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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Foreign Cover Friday is a weekly meme hosted by The Reading Fever, where foreign covers of the books we know and love are spotlighted and discussed. To join, either pick your favourite foreign cover, or pick many foreign covers, and start discussing!

I’ve decided to go with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because it’s one of the most popular and famous works available. If you haven’t by any chance read any of the books or even heard about them, here’s a brief rundown:

All Harry Potter knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley—a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years.
But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry—and anyone who reads about him—will find unforgettable. For it’s there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that’s been waiting for him… if Harry can survive the encounter.

There are more HP1 covers out there than I can possibly write about, so I’ve taken just a few that caught my eye for some reason or another.

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This is the original cover, published June 26th 1997 by Bloomsbury Publishing. It shows Harry with his lightning scar and the infamous Hogwarts Express. It’s brightly coloured to appeal to children.

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This is the American copy from 2003, published by Scholastic Press. Taking inspiration from a different scene, it shows Harry on a broomstick trying to catch the Golden Snitch. This was published some years later than the original, so it doesn’t need to work so hard to get out attention as the Bloomsbury version. It can afford to be more obscure; and really, where else are you going to see a boy with a scar on a broomstick catching a flying golden ball?

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On the left we have the “Adult” version, published in 2004 by Bloomsbury in an attempt to get more adults reading the book. The idea was that it was embarrassing for adults to be reading gaudy, brightly-coloured books in public. I have to confess, I love the adult version covers. They’re the version of Harry Potter that I own. But the marketing people eventually realised that adults didn’t care whether or not they were caught reading a children’s book – after all, by 2004, Harry Potter was substantially famous and it even became the ‘hip’ thing to read the children’s versions.
The cover on the right is the tenth anniversary edition by Scholastic, retreating once again to bright colours and a scene from the book: Harry facing the Mirror of Erised. To me, it looks too childish.

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Here are two German versions, the left published in 1999 and the right being the hardcover version published in 2000. I absolutely love the hardcover version. I think it’s gorgeous. I don’t like the left version because it shows a scene from right near the end of the book. At least with the Bloomsbury edition they were showing a scene from right near the beginning of the book. The issue I have is that you shouldn’t have to go through the entire book to reach the scene being depicted on the cover: there should be plenty of interesting scenes before that. And there is. Scholastic choose Quidditch.
Translation: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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These are the covers for the Italian 1998, the French 2007, and the Finnish 2008 versions. I don’t even know what the scene on the left is depicting. I haven’t read the book in a while, but I don’ remember a giant rat. The middle cover is OK, but it makes it appear like a children’s book, and I wouldn’t be interested in picking it up off the shelf based on this (but it is a children’s book, I hear you all yell. Well, yes. But adults love them too. So shut up). And the cover on the right… where do I even begin? It’s ugly. It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Picasso. And what is up with their noses?
Italian/French translation: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Finnish translation: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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This is the beauty I have been waiting to unveil. This is the Dutch/Flemish 2000 version. Isn’t it gorgeous? The text is clearly inspired by the film font. It gives us a broomstick and a hint of a boy riding it, and the Snitch in the bottom corner. I think it’s beautiful.
Translation: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

What are your thoughts?

Which covers do you like? Which do you hate?

Check back at The Reading Fever for her Foreign Cover Friday!

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6 thoughts on “Foreign Cover Friday: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

  1. Melbourne on my mind says:

    Oh God, that 10th anniversary cover is a shocker! It reminds me of the books that lived in the ‘rainy day’ cupboard at my grandparents’ beach house that had been there since my dad and his brothers were little… Either that or like something the Snark Squad should be taking on 😉

    I have the original covers. I prefer them to the US editions, I have no idea why. That Flemish cover is awesome though!!

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    • Lissa says:

      It’s unappealing, isn’t it? I can imagine those kinds of rainy-day books as well. My fiancée (who’s British) has the original covers. I prefer them to the US versions as well.

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  2. Kathy says:

    The German hardcover version is gorgeous, I completely agree with you! Hedwig is so beautiful, I love that she’s on the front (and yes, I was devestated when she was killed). The other German cover, however, would not get my attention should I see it on a shelf.
    The Finnish one is intriguing, just inviting you to turn the page… ingenious.
    The cover I’m fondest of is the original Bloomsbury one. I think it suits the story well and is eyecatching. It’s also the cover that my copy of the book had. (I had all the children’s covers).
    I actually really don’t like the Bloomsbury adult covers (sorry, Lissa!). I find them dull and uninteresting. But then, I do absolutely love children’s literature, and tend to avoid books that appear “too serious”.
    Compared to some of the other covers though, the Bloomsbury adult covers are quite good. The one of Harry looking in the mirror is much to childish, as is the one with the three witches, and the “giant nose” one.
    And what is with the giant rat?! I’m sure there are no rats in The Philosopher’s Stone!

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  3. Archer says:

    Can I just say my biggest peeve about this book is that American publishers changed it to sorcerers…but maybe thats just me. I dislike that tenth anniversary cover immensely. And my favourite of all is the one with the stone depicted

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  4. Penelope says:

    Whoa! I had to idea the 2003 cover wasn’t the original cover! I guess I’ve just never thought about it, but I’ve only ever seen that cover, and I thought it was the original. I like the real original a lot better.

    -I agree about the 10th anniversary edition.
    -Ron’s rat is giant in the Italian cover! It looks like it’s the main character. Lol.
    -I totally thought the French cover had three girl witches on it. 🙂
    -Love, love, LOVE their huge witch noses depicted on the Finnish cover. Can’t stop laughing. 😀

    I am in love with the Dutch cover! It’s clearly tells you that there is flying in the book, but keeps everything else a secret. Very clever.

    Great cover choice. Thanks for participating!

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