Beedle the Bard, Up Close and Personal

Nov 21, 2007

Posted by: Melissa Anelli


Greetings from London, where today I had the great pleasure of visiting Sotheby’s and being granted a private audience with one of the precious seven copies of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The charity copy was brought out to me wrapped in soft purple cloth, nestled in a special box from its jeweler.

The book is set for auction on December 13 at Sotheby’s, and Sotheby’s has printed a special catalog featuring it. Buying the catalog supports The Children’s Voice Charity; Leaky now has four extra copies of this book and will be conducting a special, short drive so that fans who want to support the effort, but can’t buy Beedle the Bard, can do so. More information on that will be available shortly.

The book is about 4×6”, and has the look of a diary. A Scottish jeweler has hand-wrought the silver pieces that adorn the item’s front; the four corners each have a tiny engraving of one of four illustrations: a foot, a fountain, a tree stump and a heart, representing each of four of the stories . The middle piece, the large silver skull, represents The Tale of the Three Brothers, the fifth story and the one featured in Deathly Hallows. A small silver clasp closes the book.

Each edition is also set with different types of stones; the charity edition is the moonstone one, which, Jo notes, is associated with “mothers, lovers and the power of dreams.” The gems look clear or bluish depending on the angle; as has been seen in pictures, a stone sits in each of the skull’s eye sockets and on each corner. The Deathly Hallows sign is not on the skull.

Inside the book, the pages are rough-edged and impressively illustrated; anyone who has seen Jo’s artistic handiwork knows her precise and playful style, and that’s present throughout. Where she makes personal comments, the pages are bordered in flowers and other flourishes. One page has a stone arch at the top, another has a shoe at the bottom – which I’ve been told play important roles in respective stories. The chapter illustrations are particularly beautiful; my favorites were the Fountain of Fair Fortunes, which looks as though it’s overflowing with something wispy and intangible, and the hairy heart, because, frankly, it was gross.

Some left-side blank pages feature a wand with all sorts of glitterati clouding its tip, as though in the middle of a particularly showy spell. The inscription thanks the would-be author and wishes him/her fair fortune. Once in awhile there’s a handwriting tick, such as in Jo capitalizing a word after first writing it lowercase, that makes the book yet more valuable.

I can now say with authority that the hardest thing to do in the presence of this unique item is to hold yourself back from drooling on it. I even experienced a momentary urge to grab it, finagle an impressive escape from Sotheby’s security, and disappear forever with the stories tucked under my arm. Of course, I wasn’t able to read the whole thing, though I easily would have sat and done so. What I did see gave the impression that these are, as expected, simple, elegant, playful stories that may not tell us more about Harry’s world but do inform the moral laws governing it.

The minority opinion I’ve seen on this book, which takes Jo to task for not making these stories immediately available to the public, is somewhat upsetting; this is a magnificent and special item that she didn’t have to create at all, nevermind offer up for charity. It will only raise more for charity since the contents are unknown. And the idea that the other six books will be in the hands of those who have held Harry most dear for the longest time is especially endearing.

The special Sotheby’s catalog about the book offers a new blurb from J.K. Rowling about the work, which says:

“So these wizarding fairy-tales have much in common with their muggle counterparts: they exist to express human hopes and fears, and to teach a lesson or two. There are, however, a few important differences: witches tend to save themselves, rather than waiting for a man to do it, and young wizards are warned, not against the dangers and temptations of the outside world, but of their own magical powers.”

You can buy the catalog here; proceeds benefit Children’s Voice. Again, Leaky has several copies and will be giving details about a special drive shortly.

The item is due to be auctioned on December 13, and as previously reported, will on display be at the New York’s Sotheby’s on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the coming week. While available, children who visit it will receive badges that say that they have been among the lucky few to see it.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.