Twenty years ago this week, a children’s book was released to very little fanfare.
It told the story of a young orphan who was about to start uncovering his family history and realise his destiny as a powerful wizard, in a world where magic existed side-by-side with our mundane reality.
The young wizard was, of course, Harry Potter. That book, Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was initially only published in a run of 500 copies. It soon attracted the attention of major publishers and got a wider release.
It went on to sell millions, as did all its six sequels, and became a genuine blockbuster publishing phenomenon – the series has so far sold more than 400m copies.
The novels and the subsequent films made author J K Rowling rich beyond her wildest dreams – £600m according to the last Sunday Times Rich List.
The story of that first novel’s creation – a single mother writing in a cafe – gave hope to aspiring authors everywhere.
But more importantly, it turned an entire generation of young people on to reading.
At a time when there was widespread concern that books were being neglected in favour of computer and mobile phone screens, Rowling’s creation single-handedly revived interest in books.
For youngsters, reading was no longer seen as the preserve of the geeky child – it even became cool.
While the fervour may have died down since those peak days of the latter books’ release dates, they still sell well and their appeal has endured. Those original readers will now be passing the books down to their own children.
And as last night’s event at Waterstones in Fareham demonstrates, the appetite for wizards and Muggles is still alive and well. J K, we salute you and your creations.