The first instalment of the Harry Potter franchise inspired a generation and made many of us anxiously wait on our 11th birthday for our Hogwarts letter.
Author J. K. Rowling came up with the idea for her first novel in 1990 as she was flat hunting with her boyfriend in Manchester. She told Urbanette: "I took the train back to London on my own and the idea for Harry Potter fell into my head... A scrawny, little, black-haired, bespectacled boy became more and more of a wizard to me.
"I began to write Philosopher's Stone that very evening. Although, the first couple of pages look nothing like the finished product."
Queen Elizabeth II meets J K Rowling at Bloomsbury Publishing in 2001. Credit: PA
But the seven years between that moment and the eventual publishing of the novel was rough. In that short space of time, she relied on state benefits, saw the death of her mum, gave birth to her first child and got divorced.
Interestingly, her real name is Joanne Rowling. She adopted the name J. K. Rowling because the then editorial director of Bloomsbury Children's Books, Barry Cunningham, believed that the book was targeted towards males, and they preferred novels written by male authors. The first British books printed had her full name in small print in the copyright section - but it was completely removed from the US books.
After being knocked back twice, she finally got Bloomsbury to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on 26th June 1997. After receiving a huge amount of praise from The Guardian, The Sunday Times and The Mail on Sunday, it won the National Book Award and a gold medal in the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.
Nearly two years after first being published, the novel had sold more than 300,000 copies and was still the UK's bestselling book until December 2001.
The US version was published in 1998, but the Scholastic Corporation thought that kids wouldn't want the word 'philosopher's' in the title, hence it was changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Despite J. K. initially approving the name change, she told the BBC in 2001: "To be honest, I wish I hadn't agreed now, but it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy."
J. K. Rowling decided to sell the film rights to Warner Bros. in 1999 for a cool £1 million ($1,982,900). It premiered in 2001 and earned £764.3 million ($974.8 million) at the box office. Ms Rowling was adamant that the main cast had to be British - except for the late Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore. She's since claimed that Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) were all too good looking for their parts.
The novel is the fifth bestselling book of all time (not including any religious, ideological, philosophical or political ones), while the seven books as a whole is the bestselling series of all time with 500 million copies sold. Incredibly, the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sold 11 million copies in the 24 hours after it was first released in 2007.
Unfortunately, the books have also been the subject of great debate because religious groups argue it contains occult or satanic subtexts. Despite J. K. Rowling describing herself as a practicing Christian, fundamental evangelical groups say the books are dangerous to children. Between 1990 and 2000, the series was the seventh most challenged book in American libraries.
The intense scrutiny even led to Ms Rowling telling the BBC: "I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft. I'm laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd. I have met thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, "Ms Rowling, I'm so glad I've read these books because now I want to be a witch."
The books are nothing short of phenomenal and if you
haven't read them then the 20th anniversary of the first in the series
is a great time to start.
Featured Image Credit: PA