The British Library reveals details on Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition

The British Library gave us a sneak preview of some of the imagery that may have inspired Harry Potter.

Prepare to dig deeper into the magical traditions that preceded Harry Potter, as the British Library gives us a preview into its exhibition. Pottermore spoke to curator Julian Harrison to learn more.

Today, the British Library have announced the title of their Harry Potter exhibition, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone - Harry Potter: A History of Magic. And from the plans we’ve heard so far, it is set to be very magical indeed, when its unveiled to the public next year.

Pottermore got a sneak preview at some of the gorgeous items the exhibit will display, and spoke to medieval curator Julian Harrison to learn just how the team have been piecing such a huge exhibition together.

‘We’ve been having great fun finding items in the British Library collection which actually mirror the themes and stories [of Harry Potter],’ Julian told us.

‘The exhibition is structured around subjects from Hogwarts: from Potions and Alchemy, to Care of Magical Creatures. The British Library has approximately 200 million collection items, and that’s a huge figure. It’s been quite an exciting task to find items for all these different areas.’

Indeed, the themes of Harry Potter have always drawn from historical folklore and mythology and at A History of Magic exhibition, fans will be able to dig deep into the archives, and discover the origins of all sorts of elements from the books. Visitors can expect an amalgamation of all things magical, with over 100 items being displayed, from historical artefacts to items from J.K. Rowling’s very own archives.

Guy de la Garde, L'Histoire et description du Phoenix, 1550 (c) British Library

The British Library have now given us a sneak preview of what we can expect to see, sharing four beautiful pieces that are set to be on display from their Care of Magical Creatures section. The selection includes medieval imagery of dragons (‘we had to have some dragons!’ jokes Julian) and a fascinating piece of 13th century art depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes. Fawkes would approve.

‘[Harry Potter] draws on existing stories and builds on it,’ Julian explained. ‘In the past, some of these fantastic beasts were even believed to be real. In ancient times, they would try to work out how to kill a Basilisk, and one of the ways was to confront it with a weasel. Apparently weasel scent or urine was fatal to basilisks. If Harry Potter had known this, he would’ve had a weasel in his pocket!’

Slightly less glamorous than the Sword of Gryffindor then. With this in mind, we are very intrigued to learn more!

Harry Potter: A History of Magic will open 20 October 2017, and run to 28 February 2018. For more information, visit the British Library website.

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.