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The Original ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Book is Nearly Impossible to Read

Want to read 'Fantastic Beasts'? good luck.

Scholastic

With the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hitting theatres in just 10 days, parents of kids who are avid readers — and avid readers of Harry Potter — might want to know more about the movie that’s named after a textbook in the Harry Potter Universe. Is there a copy out there that parents out there can get for their kid? Is it just a text that’s in the HPU but has never seen the light of day? If not, where can parents get a copy? Here’s the deal.

First released in 2001, J.K. Rowling actually wrote and compiled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them under the pen name of Newt Scamander, a nod to the fictional textbook Fantastic Beasts, which is on most first-years textbook list at Hogwarts and is a well-known academic text in magizoologist circles. Harry reads that list aloud, including the text and Scamander’s full name, to Hagrid while they’re on the tube, on the way to Diagon Alley for the first time. Besides a further nod to Scamander in the third movie — he is seen walking near Dumbledore’s office on Harry’s Marauder’s Map — he’s barely a blip in the HPU radar. These days, Newt Scamander is the main protagonist of the Fantastic Beasts film series, and in  the first movie he is at work on that textbook, carrying a suitcase of dozens if not hundreds of magical creatures.

In the real world, the very first 2001 printing  of the book — the original, only sold in limited quantities — now sells on rare book seller vendor sites, sometimes, for over 2,500 dollars. So getting your hands on a copy of the original textbook is no small feat, and only one to be accomplished should you feel like shelling over the cash.

It’s also pretty shocking that the original copies are expensive as they are — but that shouldn’t be a surprise given the larger context of J.K. Rowling’s original prints of any other Harry Potter books. To buy an original print of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone can cost anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 dollars on Ebay and other second-hand seller sites. In general, original prints of books only cost as much as they do when they’re very old books. For example, an original print of To Kill A Mockingbird costs about 300 dollars — and that book was written almost 80 years ago. Harry Potter mania suggests that even the most contemporary of Harry Potter texts, if bought in the original print, will have instant value. That is unusual.

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Prior to 2017, non-original-print copies of the ‘textbook’ written by ‘Newt Scamander,’ aside from the original print, were very cheap. Copies essentially sold at three bucks a book and were available on Amazon and at local booksellers. However, after the release of the first Fantastic Beasts, revised copies of the text started selling for 11 dollars a pop. Realistically, to the most avid Harry Potter reader, these books were cool and affordable collectibles — at least they were 16 years ago. But now, probably given the interest in the movies, those books have gotten more and more expensive.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about the Fantastic Beasts textbook and its relationship to the movie series of the same name is that they have very little, if anything, to do with one another. Although the textbook, in the Harry Potter Universe, is written by the main character of the Fantastic Beasts movie, Newt Scamander, the actual text of the book has very little to do with the movie itself.

And while magical creatures make a cameo — and explain Scamander’s presence on the North American continent in general — the only very thinly-veiled connection that had plot-importance was the presence of the obscurus in Scamander’s luggage and the fact that Credence Barebone was (or is) also an obscurus, leading to Scamander’s ability to talk him down in the climactic battle of the first film. In a way, Scamander being the star of this new series feels reverse-engineered, a way for J.K. Rowling to build off of existing, canonical text and expand the world behind it.

If this entire film series ends with Scamander sending off his textbook to a wizarding printing press, no one should be surprised, but it would still be it’s a flimsy excuse to make a new five-movie series about the battle between good and evil.

Not that anyone is complaining.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out in theaters everywhere on November 16.