When the clock chimed midnight last night (DEC3/4) bookshops began to sell the Harry Potter phenomenon's latest instalment, a modest collection of fairy stories that is expected to put JK Rowling at the top of the bestsellers list once again this Christmas. Booksellers sought to mark the publication of The Tales of Beedle the Bard - a set of short stories that featured in the final Harry Potter novel - by arranging events such as children's tea parties and breakfast readings. There was an exclusive party last night (DEC3) in London for 500 hardcore Harry fans. JK Rowling herself will host a tea party for 220 primary school children in Edinburgh this afternoon. The collection is a reprinting of five fairy stories that Rowling originally hand-wrote and illustrated on vellum as a gift for six close friends associated with the Potter oeuvre. All six versions were hand-bound, their covers inlaid with semi-precious stones. The stories are derived from a magical book used by Harry to finally defeat his adversary Lord Voldemort in the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was the fastest-selling book ever. Unlike the profits from the novels in the core Harry Potter series, the proceeds from Beedle the Bard are going to an east European children's charity chaired by Rowling, called the Children's High Level Group. Based on a European commission-backed organisation of the same name run by MEP Emma Nicholson to coordinate efforts to rehome 100,000 Romanian children kept in appalling conditions in state institutions, the charity focuses on rebuilding children's services in five east European countries. The seven Harry Potter novels have sold 400m copies worldwide and spawned five movies along with associated merchandise, helping to build their small publishers, Bloomsbury, into a major force in the book industry. The Deathly Hallows helped Bloomsbury's children's division earn GBP40m profits last year. Bloomsbury hopes to sell between 7.5 million and eight million copies worldwide from the first print run of Beedle the Bard, which is already translated into 27 languages, raising at least GBP12m for the children's charity. About 80,000 children, many disabled or from oppressed ethnic minorities such as the Roma, live in state institutions in Romania, Moldova, Georgia, the Czech republic and Armenia, the charity's director, Georgette Mulheir, said yesterday. Rowling said she hoped the new book would "not only be a welcome present to Harry Potter fans, but an opportunity to give these abandoned children a voice. It will encourage young people across the world to think about those who are less fortunate, and help change many young lives for the better." The Tales of Beedle the Bard has already raised at least GBP1.9m for the charity after Amazon won the bidding at a Sotheby's auction for the seventh and last handwritten version of the book last year, donated by Rowling. The major booksellers are now selling the stories for GBP3.95, after Amazon provoked a discounting war by offering the book as a recession-busting loss leader at half the publisher's recommended price of GBP6.95. The official price includes a GBP1.61 donation from each copy to the Rowling-backed charity, leaving booksellers in the UK effectively using their own profits to contribute a large part of the GBP12m expected to go to the Children's High Level Group. Last year's Sotheby's auction has meant Rowling's handwritten versions are valued at GBP2m.