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Japanese book art in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Let’s have a look at some of the book art from the Japanese edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ハリー・ポッターと賢者の石 (Harii Pottaa to Kenja no Ishi) by Dan Schlesinger.

A Harvard-educated New York lawyer, Schlesinger seems on the surface like an unlikely candidate for illustrating a Japanese edition. But as he discusses in the Ted Talk below, the connection actually isn’t tenuous at all. He learned Japanese as a young adult and learned traditional Japanese woodblock printing while practicing law in Japan. It was during that time that he was approached by a largely unknown publishing house looking for new titles to publish, and Schlesinger recommended a still little-known book his 9-year-old son happened to be reading: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The publisher then commissioned him, Schlesinger, to illustrate the book.

Now, let’s take a look at those first illustrations that started off his fulfilling career as an artist:

It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something peculiar — a cat reading a map. For a second, Mr. Dursley didn’t realize what he had seen — then he jerked his head around to look again.
There was a tabby cat standing on the corner of Privet Drive, but there wasn’t a map insight.
What he could have been thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light.

Dudley paraded around the living room for the family in his brand-new uniform. Smeltings’ boys wore maroon tailcoats, orange knickerbockers, and flat straw hats called boaters. They also carried knobbly sticks, used for hitting each other while the teachers weren’t looking. This was supposed to be good training for later life. Harry didn’t trust himself to speak. He thought two of his ribs might already have cracked from trying not to laugh.

The giant sat back down on the sofa, which sagged under his weight, and began taking all sorts of things out of the pockets of his coat:
a copper kettle,
a squashy package of sausages,
a poker,
a teapot,
several chipped mugs,
and a bottle of some amber liquid that he took a swig from before starting to make tea.

Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Yours sincerely,
Minerva McGonagall

And the fleet of little boats moved off all at once,
gliding across the lake, which was as smooth as glass.
Everyone was silent, staring up at the great castle overhead.
It towered over them as they sailed nearer and nearer to the cliff on which it stood.

A bundle of walking sticks was floating in midair ahead of them,
and as Percy took a step toward them they started throwing themselves at him.
There was a pop, and a little man with wicked, dark eyes and a wide mouth appeared,
floating cross-legged in the air, clutching the walking sticks.
At the very end of the corridor hung a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.
“Password?” she said.
“Caput Draconis.”

Snape swept around in his long black cloak, watching them weigh dried nettles and crush snake fangs, criticizing almost everyone except Malfoy. This was so unfair that Harry opened his mouth to argue, but Ron kicked him behind their cauldron. “Don’t push it,” he muttered, “I’ve heard Snape can turn very nasty.”

He’d done it, he’d shown Snape. . . And speaking of Snape. . . A hooded figure came swiftly down the front steps of the castle. Clearly not wanting to be seen, it walked as fast as possible toward the forbidden forest. Harry’s victory faded from his mind as he watched. He recognized the figure’s prowling walk. What was going on? In a shadowy clearing stood Snape, but he wasn’t alone. Quirrell was there, too.

Petrified, he watched as Quirrell reached up and began to unwrap his turban. What was going on? The turban fell away. Quirrell’s head looked strangely small without it. Then he turned slowly on the spot. At once, a needle-sharp pain seared across Harry’s scar; his head felt as though it was about to split in two.

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