Name, covers of Harry Potter IV leaked

U.S. publisher is forced to confirm title. "It was going to be a surprise, like a birthday or a Christmas present, for the kids," says a spokeswoman.

By Laura Miller

Published June 27, 2000 7:30PM (EDT)

Despite a level of security that's been compared to that of the CIA, the British and American publishers of J.K. Rowling's bestselling series of Harry Potter novels were unable to keep the title of Book IV a secret until the book's on-sale date of July 8. The London Telegraph reported Sunday that "sources close to the project" strongly hinted that the title of the new book is "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Today, Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of the series, issued a statement confirming that report.

"It was leaked," said Scholastic spokeswoman Judy Corman, "and once that happened, we felt it was silly" to continue to try to keep the title a secret. "It was going to be a surprise, like a birthday or a Christmas present, for the kids," she continued with a sigh. "We're sorry, but we know they'll like the book just the same."

Corman states that the Telegraph was not alone in leaking the title, but decline to name any other outlets for the story.

In a letter to her readers, Jenna, the creator of the Unofficial Harry Potter Fan Club Web site and a 27-year-old Web designer, says that "credible" sources had e-mailed her the title several days before the Telegraph story ran, but that she still felt unsure about posting it to her site. When "a person e-mailed me with the title and threatened to tell other webmasters if I didn't post the info and give him credit," she refused his demand, later deciding to post the information because "it was leaking out." Jenna, who does not offer a last name, also posts cover art for both the U.S. and U.K. editions of the book, stating, "After researching the sources of the images, I have come to believe the title and cover [for the U.S. book] are accurate."

Rumors have been flying on the Web and off about the plot for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," but Rowling has insisted that all information about the book be kept a strict secret to avoid spoiling it for her many young readers. Emma Matthewson, her editor at Bloomsbury, her U.K. publisher, told the Telegraph that she kept the 700-page manuscript -- of which there was only one copy -- with her at all times, "and when I was not working, I kept it in a safety box in the bank." She added that her car had been broken into twice while she was editing the manuscript.

Fans have instead been contenting themselves with news tidbits about the casting of the film version of her first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone," to be directed by Chris Columbus. British actress Maggie Smith is reportedly up for the role of Professor MacGonagall and Tim Roth is rumored to be a candidate to play Harry's nemesis, the sinister Professor Snape.

Laura Miller

Laura Miller is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia."

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