Attention muggles (non-magic folk)! Perhaps the most magical library exhibit ever is on display at the British Library. It is called Harry Potter: A History of Magic. It began on October 20th and runs until February 28, 2018. The exhibit was created to coincide with the twentieth anniversary release of the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s (U.K./U.S.) Stone, the first novel in the series. The library hit an institution record with presales of the event reaching over 30,000. Once the exhibit is over, it will travel to the U.S. and for a show at the New York Historical Society in October 2018.
Fans of the Harry Potter franchise should take note: the exhibit is not about magic found in the Harry Potter novels, per se. The goal of the British Library is to both showcase the folklore and historical figures that influenced J. K. Rowling’s novels, and to connect library patrons with the British Library’s collection of magical artifacts and information resources. For example, part of the exhibit includes the tombstone of the actual Nicholas Flamel, a fifteenth century alchemist. Other magical artifacts include the Ripley Scroll, which purportedly instructs readers on how to create the Philosopher’s Stone, oracle bones, and the famous Battersea Cauldron.
Perhaps the items of greatest significance to visiting witches and wizards are the Harry Potter artifacts donated from J. K. Rowling’s personal collection. These include hand drawn maps of Hogwarts, teacher rosters, and unpublished drafts of the novels. Joanna Norledge, one of the exhibit’s curators, said the British Library strived to showcase not only the world of Harry Potter, but the world of magic at large. She said that the library wanted to offer “a new angle” and to display the “historical traditions of magic.”
In addition to the exhibit, Bloomsbury and Scholastic published two books to commemorate the twentieth anniversary. The first is Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic, and the second is Harry Potter: A History of Magic. Both are beautifully illustrated and connect the Harry Potter universe with its historical and mythological counterparts.