Press Release - 18 October 2017

Harry Potter: A History of Magic opens at the British Library

18 October 2017

London, England - Harry Potter: A History of Magic runs from 20 October 2017 – 28 February 2018, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The exhibition will combine centuries-old British Library treasures, including the oldest items in our collection, the Chinese Oracle bones, with original material from Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury and J.K. Rowling’s own archives, going on display for the first time.

The exhibition includes stunning loans from national and international institutions – including broomsticks, wands and crystal balls.

A 400-year-old celestial globe, enhanced with augmented reality technology, in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, enabling visitors to explore the constellations in the night sky.

The British Library will also be simultaneously launching a regional roll-out of Harry Potter: A History of Magic on 20 October, with specially designed panels inspired by the London exhibition going on display in 20 public libraries across the UK, highlighting each library’s local connections to magic and folklore.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic will unveil rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic from across the world, which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.

Based on the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including Potions, Herbology, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures and Defence Against the Dark Arts, this exhibition will also showcase material from J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury’s own collections, going on display for the very first time.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Annotated sketch of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by J.K. Rowling, complete with the giant squid that lives in the lake
  • J.K. Rowling’s handwritten list of the teachers and subjects at Hogwarts
  • Original artwork by Jim Kay for the illustrated Harry Potter editions, including paintings and sketches of Harry Potter, the Hogwarts Express, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Hagrid
  • The Ripley Scroll – a 6 metre-long alchemical manuscript that describes how to make the Philosopher’s Stone, from the 1500s
  • Chinese Oracle bones – the oldest datable items in the British Library’s collection, one of which records a lunar eclipse that is precisely datable to 27 December 1192 BC
  • Celestial globe dating from 1693, made by Vincent Coronelli and brought to life using augmented reality technology, in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, which enables visitors to spin the globe virtually and explore in detail the ancient constellations, some of which share their names with familiar characters from the Harry Potter stories, such as Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Bellatrix LeStrange and Draco Malfoy
  • An early written record of ‘abracadabra’, used as a charm to cure malaria
  • An Arabic illuminated manuscript showing male and female mandrakes
  • The tombstone of Nicolas Flamel, a real historical figure who also features in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Black moon crystal ball, used by ‘Smelly Nelly’, a Paignton witch from the 20th century who had a taste for strong perfume
  • A mermaid, allegedly caught in Japan in the 18th century

Ahead of opening, Harry Potter: A History of Magic has already sold over 30,000 tickets - the highest amount of advance tickets ever sold for a British Library exhibition. Tickets are available to buy from the British Library website.

Julian Harrison, lead curator of Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the British Library, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome visitors and Harry Potter fans alike to Harry Potter: A History of Magic. We’ve loved discovering the magical traditions that lie behind the Harry Potter books, and we’ve encountered so many amazing artefacts along the way.

“The exhibition takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the history of magic – from mermaids to crystal balls, from broomsticks to garden gnomes! It’s been enormous fun choosing the exhibits.”

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, said of the exhibition:

“The British Library has done an incredible job. Encountering objects for real that have in some shape or form figured in my books has been quite wonderful and to have several of my own items in the exhibition is a reminder of twenty amazing years since Harry was first published.”

This exhibition contains the British Library’s first foray into the world of augmented reality, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture.

Amit Sood, Director of Google Arts & Culture said:

“We're excited to collaborate with the British Library on Harry Potter: A History of Magic. Being able to combine two important cultural treasures – the Harry Potter series with the Celestial Globe in the British Library – demonstrates how technology can help us experience art and culture in new and interesting ways.”

20 Libraries join together for the 20th anniversary

On 20 October 2017, 20 public libraries from across the UK will be joining together for the first time, from Edinburgh to Exeter, to present their own interpretations of Harry Potter: A History of Magic, as part of the British Library’s Living Knowledge Network. Using stunning mobile panels inspired by the exhibition, these Living Knowledge Network partners will draw on their own collections and regional connections to magical traditions and folklore to make displays. For the full list of participating Living Knowledge Partners, please see the notes to editors section.

The Living Knowledge Network builds on local knowledge and national convening power to develop a mutually supportive and self-sustaining network of major libraries - to create value by sharing ideas and sparking connections between libraries, collections and people across the UK.

Events and learning programmes

Harry Potter: A History of Magic will be accompanied by varied learning and events programmes, with over 11,000 free tickets made available for schoolchildren across the UK. The learning programme includes guided workshops, teacher events, a family trail, a large-scale family event on 2 December for up to 900 visitors that will include a range of activities and exhibition entry throughout the day as well as special events aimed at community partners. Adult courses will also be available, on a range of themes including Witchcraft in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, magical illustration and fantasy fiction.

The events programme gives visitors the opportunity to delve into the magical world in even more detail, with the Hogwarts Curriculum Lectures, a series of our hugely popular Late at the Library events, and events exploring illustrating Harry Potter, Medieval magic, the effect of 20 years of Harry Potter on children’s literature and much more. For the full programme, please visit our What’s On pages.

Publishing

On 20 October 2017, Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic will be published by Bloomsbury, and Scholastic will publish simultaneously in the US. Aimed at a family audience, this book showcases a selection of the amazing artefacts, manuscripts, original artwork, and magical objects included in the exhibition. The eBook edition will be published in both markets by Pottermore.

Bloomsbury will also be publishing the official comprehensive companion book, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. A collaboration between the publishers and British Library curators, this lavishly produced, full-colour coffee-table book will make the exhibition experience available to everyone. Again, a digital edition will be published by Pottermore - this edition will have enhancements allowing the content to be navigated in multiple, digital-first ways and will feature additional visuals of exhibition artefacts.

Exhibition travelling to New York in autumn 2018

US fans will also be able to enjoy Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the New-York Historical Society in October 2018, following its run at the British Library in London.

The exhibition’s New York opening marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US by Scholastic, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK. A companion book will be published by Scholastic in the US in autumn 2018.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic on BBC Two

Alongside the exhibition opening, BBC Two will be broadcasting an hour-long documentary at 9pm on Saturday 28 October, Harry Potter: A History of Magic, charting the journey of the exhibition, from object selection by the curators to opening night, as well as exploring other historical magical traditions and folklore and including interviews with J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay.

About Pottermore

Pottermore, the digital publishing, e-commerce, entertainment and news company from J.K. Rowling, is the global digital publisher of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. As the digital heart of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, pottermore.com is dedicated to unlocking the power of imagination. It offers news, features, and articles as well as new and previously unreleased writing by J.K. Rowling.

For more information, please contact: press@team.pottermore.com

Notes to editors

For blind and partially sighted visitors, braille books with tactile images have been developed in partnership with RNIB and will be available in the exhibition alongside large print guides. The British Library will also be running audio-described tours with handling sessions in partnership with VocalEyes.

The Living Knowledge Network partners displaying the exhibition panels in libraries in their regions are: Birmingham, Bournemouth & Poole, Devon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Kirklees, Lancashire, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Norfolk, Northern Ireland, Portsmouth, Reading, Sheffield, Suffolk and Wakefield.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages. See more at: www.bl.uk.

Bloomsbury Publishing is a leading independent publishing house. The children’s division publishes books for children of all ages up to 16 in both print and e-formats. It publishes across preschool, picture books, fiction and non-fiction. Its award-winning list includes authors such as J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Louis Sachar and Sarah J. Maas, and illustrators such as Jim Kay, Chris Riddell and Emily Gravett. For more information go to www.bloomsbury.com.

The first book in the series of Harry Potter novels, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was originally published by Bloomsbury in 1997. Since then Bloomsbury has published all seven of the Harry Potter novels in children’s and adult editions, three charity books – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages and The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the ILLUSTRATED EDITION of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury are also the publishers for the physical audiobooks of the entire series.

Harry Potter - A History of Magic: The Book of the Exhibition is out on 20th October in hardback (Bloomsbury) and in standard and enhanced ebook editions (Pottermore). Google Arts & Culture is an innovation partner for cultural institutions. The team provides technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, in museums. The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available on the web, on iOS and Android, allowing users to explore exhibitions from over a thousand museums.

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