New items revealed from the British Library’s Harry Potter exhibition

The Pottermore News Team

Harry Potter illustration by Jim Kay.
Harry Potter illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing.

An early handwritten draft of J.K. Rowling’s Sorting Hat song from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is just one of many never-before-seen artefacts to be displayed at the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, opening later this year.

The first batch of tickets for the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at the British Library go on sale on Monday at 12pm BST, and Pottermore can now share three items from the collection — including a handwritten piece by J.K. Rowling.

The British Library’s exhibition is in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and will display everything from rare books, manuscripts and treasures from the British Library’s archives to original drafts and drawings from J.K. Rowling.

Pieces from illustrator Jim Kay will also be on display, as well as original manuscripts and editorial notes from Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury.

An early draft of the Sorting Hat song from the first Harry Potter story joins over 100 magical artefacts that form the core of this new exhibition, exploring the origins of magic and folklore that underpin the themes of the Harry Potter stories.

Here’s a sneak peek at the writing — the full piece will go on display when the exhibition opens on 20 October.

An extract from an early draft of the Sorting Hat song by J.K Rowling
The Sorting Hat Song by J.K. Rowling. An extract of an original draft ©J.K. Rowling

Julian Harrison, head curator at the British Library, was delighted with the artefact.

‘It’s always so thrilling to see an author’s original draft in their own handwriting, and J.K. Rowling’s draft of the Sorting Hat song is no exception. It’s integral to the Harry Potter stories, and it’s amazing to see how it was originally written and amended. We hope this provides an exciting taster of what kind of material visitors can expect to see in our exhibition.’

Julian introduced further examples showing some early depictions of magic from the British Library’s collections.

'We’re also delighted to be revealing two beautiful items from the British Library’s collections that will feature in the exhibition as part of the Potions section – Harry’s least favourite Hogwarts subject!'

One is the first printed depiction of a witch with a cauldron, published in 1480.

According to The British Library, this is taken from the book On Witches and Female Fortune Tellers written by Ulrich Molitor and shows ‘two elderly women placing a snake and a cockerel respectively into a large flaming pot, in order to create a hailstorm.’

An artefact depicting witches stirring a cauldron from The British Library
Ulrich Molitor, De laniis et phitonicis mulieribus ... tractatus pulcherrimus (Cologne, 1489) (c) British Library Board.

The second piece is titled A Potions Class and originated in 1491 in the text Ortus Sanitatis, Latin for ‘The Garden of Health’.

The image shows an old Potions master ‘wearing an ermine-lined green cloak, a stick in his left hand, with his assistant holding open a book of recipes.’ What would Professor Snape think about these teaching methods?

BL British library artefact Ortus Sanitatis
Jacob Meydenbach, Ortus Sanitatis (Strasbourg, 1491) (c) British Library Board.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic opens at the British Library on 20 October 2017, and closes 28 February 2018. The tickets on sale on Monday are for the booking period 20 October to 31 December and more tickets for the exhibition will become available later this year.

Watch this space for more exciting insights into the exhibition.

Tickets for Harry Potter: A History of Magic go on sale at 12pm on Monday 3 April priced at £16 for adults, and between £5 and £11 for concessions. Check the British Library website for more details, and to sign up for more information and news.

Available to pre-order now, Pottermore is also publishing two official eBooks alongside the exhibition: Harry Potter - A History of Magic and Harry Potter - A Journey Through the History of Magic. An enhanced edition of Harry Potter - A History of Magic is available from Apple.

For US readers, Harry Potter: A Journey Through the History of Magic will publish this year, and further publishing is planned alongside the US exhibition in 2018.