Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the most translated of all seven Potter books, having been translated into over 80 languages. Some languages continue on translating the other books from the Potter series, but some do not, choosing for whatever reason to stop with the first book. These translations can be found all over the globe, from Greenland to Indonesia to Brazil and soon to be New Zealand with their publication of their Te Reo Maori Philosopher’s Stone translation. These translations sometimes feature unusual cover art only found on that one book while others have the well-known and beloved covers from both the U.S. and U.K. books. While to some, seeing Harry Potter printed in another language is a short conversation topic or something to point at while browsing an international airport’s bookstore, but to others these translations are something to be snapped up and collected in their quest to “have them all”.
Collecting Harry Potter translations is not a new phenomena. I have met Potter translation collectors who have been collecting for the past fifteen years, mostly using their travels or traveling friends as means to slowly grow the collection. But in the past few years Potter translation collecting has been gaining in popularity within the mainstream Harry potter collector and fan base, I think mostly due to popular collectors, Like The Potter Collector, on Instagram and YouTube showing off their exhaustive and beautiful collections. Even with a small presence on Instagram and YouTube, I have seen quite a surge of new translation collectors in the past few years, and this momentum does not look to be slowing down. Quite frequently, I receive emails from Potterheads around the world wanting to begin their own Harry Potter translation collection and want to know where to start. It’s at this point that I reply that eBay and Amazon will be their best friends as well as inform them about The Big Six Potter translations.
The phrase, Big Six, was coined a few years ago by the fabulous Peter Kenneth, AKA The Potter Collector and the phrase quickly took hold within the Potterhead collecting community. It’s not uncommon for to receive emails from hopeful new and long-time collectors alike asking for help finding just one of these elusive Big Six Potter translations. In these emails, I’ve often read comparisons between hunting these six books and horcruxes – they’re elusive, hidden in some of the most far-flung and strangest places, and captivating.
Not surprisingly, the Big Six is currently comprised of six Philosopher’s Stone translations: Asturian, Greenlandic, Gujarati, Macedonian, Malayalam, and Nepali. Originally when Peter coined the phrase the six included Faroese in place of Malayalam; however, the Faroese publisher reprinted book 1 into softcover, thus making this translation easier to obtain and the book was replaced by the Malayalam Philosopher’s Stone translation, which many collectors have discovered, is all but impossible to find. It’s important to note that this Big Six list is based off of the difficulty in acquiring a translation only, not a specific edition of that translation. For example, there are a few quite hard-to-find editions of the first Russian Potter translation, but the first edition of that translation is quite easily found. Just type in “Harry Potter in Russian” into an eBay search, and you’ll find quite a few listings for not only the first Russian translation but also the second. Editions of French, German and Spanish translations are about as easy to find as well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sit the Big Six where you can hunt with specifics like ISBN and book title and pull up only a handful of entries on google. These six books are exceedingly hard-to-find in the countries from which the come and even more so outside of them. Searching for these six books takes a great deal of patience, time and luck.
The Asturian translation, Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal, was translated by Jesús González Rato and published by Trabe, is a translation out of the Asturias region in Spain. Only the first book has been translated into Asturian. While the publisher is still around, the likelihood of books two through seven being published is quite slim. Also, Asturian speakers have access to the Potter books via the ubiquitous Spanish translations. The book features beautiful cover art that loosely resembles that of the much-easier found Spanish translation. The publisher has confirmed only 700 copies were produced, making this book almost as rare the hardcover first print, first edition Philosopher’s Stone. In fact, during my search for this translation, I was told by quite a few people in the Asturias region that this book didn’t exist and/or that they’d never seen nor heard of it.
The Greenlandic, or Kalaallisut, translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter ujarallu inuunartoq, was published by Atuakkiorfik Greenland Publishers and translated by Stephen Hammeken. Like Asturian, only the first book was translated, and it’s more than likely going to stay that way. A few years after this translation’s publication the translator died; a few years after that, the publisher shuttered its doors. Importantly too is that Greenlanders have access to the Potter books via the Danish and English books. From the few native Greenlanders I’ve spoken with about this translation, it looks to have been done well, and they said the book sold out fairly quickly. Importantly though is that while the book was popular in Greenland when it was released, the only print run was more than likely around 1,000 copies or less. From my research, Greenlandic books rarely have print runs of 1,000 copies, with the exception being if the book is a predicted bestseller. Most of the Greenlandic books are limited to just a few hundred prints or maybe even less. The remote location and limited internet access of the country in which this book hails from help make this translation extremely hard-to-find. The Greenlandic translation may be the most well-known of the Big Six; it’s certainly the one that I’m asked about the most. Interestingly, of these six, this translation is usually the easiest for collectors to find. That said, remember easy is relative; this book usually still takes quite a lot searching around and luck to find.
The Gujarati translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, હેરી પોટર અને પારસમણિ was published by Manjul and translated by Harish Nayak and Jagruti Trivedi. Only the first book was published in this language. The Gujarati translation comes from the Gujarat area of India. If you’re translation collector, you’ll know that India has six Harry Potter translations, with four of them being fairly easy to find and the other two are in the Big Six. You’ll also know that Manjul publishes all six of those Potter translations and that they look fairly similar, all bearing the Mary GrandPre cover art. I am not sure on the print run of the Gujarati translation, but from talking with a few locals and collectors, I believe there is one, maybe two print runs of around 1,500 copies. With potentially 3,000 books floating around, it’s easy to think this book would be easier to find, but it is absolutely not. Gujarati is the sixth most widely spoken native language in India with approximately 55.5 million speakers as of 2011. Interestingly though is that while there are a lot of native speakers, there don’t seem to be a lot of readers. With the exception of two native speakers, the people I talked to read in other native Indian languages, but not Gujarati. While Manjul is still printing some of their other Potter translations, they currently have no plans to reprint this one.
. The Macedonian translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Хари Потер и Каменот на мудроста was published by Publishing House Kultura and translated by Blagorodna Bogeska-Ančevska is now actually the first Macedonian translation. A few months ago, a new Macedonian Philosopher’s Stone translation from a different translator and publisher was released. Shortly after, there was some talk among translation collectors about whether or not the first Macedonian should remain in the Big Six. Ultimately though, the first Macedonian translation is still just hard to find as before the publication of the new one. Additionally, all seven books were published in Macedonian, but not all by the same publisher. Books one through five were published by Publishing House Kultura and the last two were published by Mladinska kniga Skopje. Interestingly, the first five books were published into softcover only and feature the original Bloomsbury cover art and the last two were only published in hardcover and feature the Mary GrandPre covers from Scholastic. I am not sure how many of the first Macedonian translations of book 1 were made. At some point in production, cover was darkened by a lot, so there are at least two print runs. Both covers are equally rare and sought after.
The Malayalam translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, ഹാരിപോട്ടർ രസായനക്കല്ല്, as I said earlier is also published by Manjul and is translated by Radhika C. Nair. Books one and two were published in this language, and both books are extremely hard-to-find, but mainly due to quickly increasing demand, only the Philosopher’s Stone translation is on the Big Six list. Again here, I am not sure how many books were made. Similar to the Gujarati translation, I have heard from fellow collectors that think there were two print runs of around 1,500 books each. But again, there are many millions of speakers. India has approximately 45 million native speakers. Similarly too to Gujarati, from my own personal experience, there are many more speakers than readers of this language. And like the Gujarati translation, locating a Malayalam Philosopher’s Stone translation takes quite a bit of poking around and even more luck.
The Nepali translation, ह्यारी पोटर र पारसमणि was translated by Shlesha Thapaliya and Bijaya Adhikari and published by the now defunct Sunbird Publishing House. Again here, I’m not sure how many books were printed, but again I don’t think over 1,000; and honestly, I feel 1,000 is a generous number. Sunbird Publishing House was formed by five women who wanted to combine their professional talents to help improve falling literacy rates among the Nepali youth. After much consideration, the women thought that Nepali children and teenagers would enjoy reading the Potter books. The women were also hoping that having Harry Potter translated into Nepali would also encourage Nepali writers to write for their youth. After writing to J.K. Rowling about their plight, Rowling responded positively and the rights were purchased for a nominal royalty. The book was sold around Kathmandu but was ultimately aimed at the youth in Nepal’s interior villages. This factor along with probable very low print run and difficulty of outsiders to access parts of Nepal even via the internet has made this book extremely hard-to-find. Importantly, this book is the only authorized Nepali translation of Harry Potter. There are unauthorized versions of the complete Potter series found around Nepal, but from what I know, their covers are different.
While these Big Six books typically take great deal of time and effort to locate, collecting Harry Potter translations is one of the most fun and fulfilling things I have ever done. I have met some of the best people and found and connected with Potterheads from all over this beautiful world. If you’re thinking about joining myself and many others in our quest to have all the Harry Potter translations, I hope you do! We really have fun!
If you’d like to hear what Harry Potter sounds like all over the world, check out www.thebookthatlives.com
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