How many editions of the Harry Potter series have you ever seen in one place? In an average bookstore, probably 2-3. In better bookstores, or possibly on shelves of avid fans, maybe a few more.
How about 500+ copies in over 60 languages?
You don’t often get an opportunity to see an entire room covered in bookshelves dedicated to a single piece of fiction. That’s exactly what I went to see today: an exhibition of 530 copies of the beloved series and a few related works, currently on display at the Tower Center mall in Rijeka.
The incredible collection is owned by Damir Tonković who graciously made it available to the public, and counts editions in 68 languages acquired all over the world. From English and Croatian to Yiddish and Maori, the scope of the collection reflects the immense popularity and the universal appeal of the Potter saga to audiences spanning generations.
Many books on display, including the first Croatian edition, share the famous cover art created by Mary GrandPré:
Fun fact: the first Croatian edition of the Harry Potter series (shown on the photo above) is somewhat of a rarity these days. Since the infamous crash of the publishing house Algoritam (2017) and the expiration of their exclusive publishing rights for HP in Croatia (2019), this particular edition has not been in print and is pretty hard to acquire, as owners willing to part with their copies are few and far between. Second-hand prices have soared over the last few years: each book in the series, which originally cost €20-25 on average, now easily sells for double or even triple the price. The first few books in the series are hardest to find and go for up to €100 apiece.
Back to the exhibition: I loved seeing different art styles on some of the international editions. The Thai one, for example, with its lavish cover art reminiscent of movie posters:
Unfortunately, I forgot to make a note of the country of origin of what might be my absolute favourite on display:
I also found it interesting to see different approaches to publishing. In Vietnam, each book in the series was published in several smaller parts. For example, The Order of the Phoenix was published as a serial of 22 instalments!
Visitors are allowed to leaf through all the books on display – quite a bold decision on behalf of the organizers, if you ask me, but I picked up a few nonetheless to check out the artwork in the illustrated editions.
And as for the cover photo at the top? I barged in right after they opened today and was lucky to snap a pic of the empty room. It was otherwise much more crowded, especially on weekend mornings when the youngest visitors enjoyed some storytelling, and the Ministry of Magic held creative workshops for kids aged 7-14. It’s no surprise that all the workshops and storytelling hours were fully booked days in advance.
The collection will remain on display at the Tower Center mall in Rijeka (3rd floor) until this Sunday, November 14th. It can be visited free of charge, every day from 5PM to 9PM, or from 11AM to 9PM on Saturday and Sunday.
The exhibition in Rijeka was organised by Hoću knjigu in collaboration with the Tower Center. It was first displayed in Zagreb earlier this year, and will make its way to other cities in Croatia as well (to be announced).