The seventh and final instalment of J K Rowlings's Harry Potter series became the fastest selling book of all time when it was published last week. D J Taylor presents a history of the phenomenon in seven chapters...
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)
The most modest of starts. A bare 224 pages. Principal stanchions in place – Harry, Ron and Hermione, Professor Dumbledore, wizardry, Hogwarts school, Dark Lord Voldemort lurks etc. Wins Smarties Prize. Filmed in 2001.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998)
Still fairly modest: 250 pages. Print run upped. Voldemort back in town. Flying cars, killer spiders, etc. "Is Snape a baddy?" motif fixed. Unveiling of Ginny Weasley as long-term romantic marker. Wins Smarties Prize. Early stirrings of Pottermania. Filmed 2002.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)
It takes off: 317 pages. Death Eaters, Harry's godfather Sirius Black, werewolves and rats. Wins Smarties Prize. Wins Whitbread Children's Book of the Year award. All three volumes occupy top spots in New York Times best-seller list. Rowling appears on cover of Time magazine. Filmed 2004.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001)
Massive in all senses: 636 pages. Triwizards and first death – luckless Cedric Diggory. Romantic triangle with Ron, Hermione and Viktor Krum. Three million sold in 48 hours. Withdrawn from Smarties Prize to give others a chance. Filmed 2005, with "loads cut out" (young fan).
>Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)
Things get serious, on the page and off it; 766 pages. Voldemort threat now unignorable. US author, Nancy Stouffen, claims plagiarism but case dismissed. Bloomsbury sues Dutch publisher over book starring girl wizard named Tanya Grotter. Film just out.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005)
Only 607 pages. Voldemort now in open rebellion; "darker" side (ie violent deaths) painstakingly explored by critics. Many pre-publication bets on Dumbledore's demise from Bungay area of Suffolk, home of Bloomsbury printer; employee arrested.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007)
It's not over till it's over. Again, reined in at 607 pages. Voldemort finally toppled, but blood all over floor. Romantic hints fulfilled. In UK WH Smith sells 15 copies a second. Rowling is first writer to become dollar billionaire. Millions of children distraught.