Harry Potter and the Gàidhlig Let-Down
If you search for the ISBN 978-1-58234-681-6 or 1-58234-681-X you will find a plethora of sites—everything from Amazon to Google Books to WorldCat—claiming it belongs to a book that was never existed: Harry Potter agus Clach an Fheallsanaich, the now mythical Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) translation of The Philosopher’s Stone. This is a mistake1—the nature of which isn’t entirely clear—that has been subsequently scraped from site to site, propagating through book databases and never being corrected. One that unfortunately is a haunting reminder that Bloomsbury reneged on a promise they made.
In 2003, students from the Glasgow Gaelic School wrote dozens of letters to Bloomsbury expressing their dismay that Harry Potter wasn’t available in Gaelic, one of the native languages of Scotland, where the books are largely set and written and the movies, filmed. Bloomsbury seemed to agree and announced that they would publish a Gaelic translation by Christmas 2006. Despite the fact that they subsequently published translations in Irish and Welsh, the promised Gaelic translation did not appear. By 2007 plans for the translation were dropped citing difficulties finding an appropriate translator. Pressure continued to be applied by activists, the Gaelic development agency: Bòrd na Gàidhlig and even a member of the Scottish Parliament—undoubtedly this was the reason that Bloomsbury continued to be listed as the contact publisher for Scots Gaelic on J. K. Rowling’s official contact list right until the end even though it was the only language on that list that wasn’t actually published.
Couldn’t find a translator? Really Bloomsbury, that’s what you decided to go with? I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the potential market of Gaelic speakers tops out at about 160,000 whereas Welsh is more like 800,000 and Irish, 1.7 million.
To be fair, Bloomsbury is not in the business of revitalizing endangered languages and I’m sure that they have formulas for this sort of thing that just made Gaelic a bad risk. I’m sure that Scots fell into that category as well—which is of course why it was published by Itchy Coo not Bloomsbury! Nonetheless, I have a hard time believing that they couldn’t afford to lose a little money doing a small run of Gaelic given the success of Harry Potter overall, if only because they promised they would.
@mcallister_alaskagrown first let me know that the Gaelic ISBN was floating around the internet.
1 If you look at these listings, it’s pretty clear they aren’t real. The details are sparse, there are no cover pictures. They claim it was published 2008 or 2010. There are no reviews. The book doesn’t exist in any library in the world. You can still purchase Irish, Welsh, Ancient Greek, and Latin directly from Bloomsbury (although you do need to search for the language), but there’s no Scottish Gaelic. There’s no question the book has never been published.