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← I think we've been insulted by American book publishers

RomeStu's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by RomeStu

Comment 21 by mmurray :

Comment 19 by RomeStu :

It reminds me that the title of the 1st Harry Potter book when published in the USA had been changed from "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorcerer's Stone" in order not to associate something good (philosophy) with magic, but without the historical understanding of medieval alchemy and the quest for the philosopher's stone which was integral to the story.

Was that the reason ? I though it was just part of the Americanisation of the book. Wikipedia says

They thought that a child would not want to read a book with the word "philosopher" in the title and,[30] after some discussion, the American edition was published in October 1998 under the title Rowling suggested, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.[14] Rowling claimed that she regretted this change and would have fought it if she had been in a stronger position at the time.[31] Philip Nel has pointed out that the change lost the connection with alchemy, and the meaning of some other terms changed in translation, for example from UK English "crumpets" to US English "muffin".


Thanks for the info Michael. It appears I have been the victim of a mis-conception about the power of the religious right to influence publishing choices ;-). I can understand the americanisation of certain words to avoid mis-understanding and I can see that when first published JK Rowling had little clout in the publishing world. I also was unaware that she had actually chosen the us title.

It may be that the publishers acted for "dumbed down" reasons (avoiding a difficult word like philosopher), rather than pandering to the religious right, but that said, given the importance of the concept of the medieval idea of the philosopher's stone to the plot I am surprised that when the 1st movie came out in the US it was also called "sorcerer's stone". Now you may say that was for continuity, but Harry Potter was by then a global phenomenon and the word "philosopher" would not have reduced profit at the box office.

Likewise why do not subsequent editions revert to the original title now that JK Rowling has all the clout she needs, and we know that kids (and adults) will read anything with the words "Harry Potter" in the title.

Anyway, we'll let this lie now, as I didn't mean to divert the thread.

Tue, 05 Jul 2011 11:56:48 UTC | #846341