Philosopher's Or Sorcerer's Stone? Why Harry Potter's First Book Has Two Titles

Readers refer to it either as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Here's why the book has two titles.

Harry Potter

The first Harry Potter book was published as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, so why was the title changed for readers in the United States? When the book by J.K. Rowling hit shelves in the U.S., the title was adjusted to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Rowling went on to write six Harry Potter sequels that became the basis of a film franchise consisting of eight movies, all of which retained their original titles.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone made its debut in June 1997 within the United Kingdom. It took Rowling over five years to write the magical tale about the boy wizard. She initially had trouble selling her first-ever book to publisher's but it was eventually accepted by Bloomsbury Children's Books, a decision they would never regret.

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The buzz surrounding Harry Potter instantly took off after it hit the U.K. shelves in 1997. Thankfully, Scholastic Corporation had already bought the U.S. rights to the first Harry Potter book months before its U.K. release. Scholastic reportedly paid $105,000 for those rights which were almost unheard of for a children's book. The American edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released a year later in September 1998 but it came with a few changes, such as a different name.

Harry Potter

Arthur Levine, the man behind Scholastic's Harry Potter publication, had reservations about the book's title, more specifically with the word "philosopher." He was worried that the word was too old-fashioned for young readers. "Philosopher" was not a commonly used term and it was believed that the book would be overlooked if not for a title change. Scholastic suggested "Harry Potter and the School of Magic" as the new title but Rowling later picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The word "sorcerer" had a clear connotation to magic, something that wouldn't confuse readers.

Looking back, Rowling has shared that she wished vetoed the title change. She wanted to hold onto her original title as she put so much thought into it, but seeing as it was her first novel, she consented to the adjustment. The title wasn't the only element changed for the American edition of the first Harry Potter book, though. Certain British English terms were changed for U.S. readers. For example, "mum" was switched to "mom" and "jumper" was adjusted to "sweater." Rowling put a stop to the British English changes for the following books in the series.

When the first book was adapted into a film in 2001, Warner Bros. kept Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as the official title except for the U.S. and a handful of other countries. To appease U.S. moviegoers, the movie used the Sorcerer's Stone title to match their version of the best-selling Harry Potter novel. The adjustment required more work for the actors since they had to reshoot scenes to add the word "Sorcerer's" each time the Philosopher's Stone was mentioned in the movie. It's no question why universally-approved titles were chosen for the rest of the Harry Potter installments.

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