Opinion: Harry Potter – A History of Magic Exhibition

Attention, Muggles! If you (like me) are a fan of Harry Potter and his magical wizarding world, then I highly recommend a visit to the A History of Magic exhibition, on now until 28th February 2018 at The British Library.

Curated to celebrate 20 years since the publication of The Philosopher’s Stone, this exhibition merges original documents from J.K. Rowling with books and texts from The British Library’s archive that showcase some of the magical themes, creatures and events that inspired J.K. Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter series.

She took five years researching and writing before taking Harry to a publisher (she was famously turned down by eight, until Bloomsbury made the best decision of their lives and published her) and her dedication and research shows. It’s fascinating to see how many references she makes, to Greek myths, astrology, ancient magic and mythical creatures. It turns out there is even a reference to a Hippogriff in an old text that inspired the creation of good-old Buckbeak! As you walk around the exhibition, it is divided up into the key themes that appear in the books, including Potions, Astrology and Charms and really delves into the origins of each and how J.K. Rowling used elements in her books.

There were some really special things on display, including original J.K.Rowling hand-written drafts and annotated chapters from her iconic books. There’s even one or two exclusive paragraphs that didn’t end up in the final versions. Also, I loved discovering that J.K. Rowling is quite the artist, as her small but perfect sketches of characters from the books were a real treat. You build up your own idea of how each character looks as you read the books, (also, we obviously have the visual representation of the films) but it’s so interesting to see how the characters were originally imagined, verses how they ended up – in your head or on screen! The exhibition also gives a glimpse into the way J.K.Rowling works, with her hand-written timetable of the multiple plotlines, showing how she weaves them together and when she’ll bring certain elements into the plot. A truly fascinating insight.

Another highlight for me was the work of Jim Kay, the artist behind the Harry Potter illustrated editions. His sketches and paintings are prominently featured throughout, and I just loved his interpretation of not only the iconic characters, but all the details of J.K.’s wizarding world.

As you may be picking up, I pretty much loved everything, and could keep going, so I’ll reign it in and my last mention will be for the display of different Harry Potter covers and editions from around the world, it was so interesting to see the way the books are presented in different countries and to see something you know so well look so different.

Throughout, sadly no photography is allowed, which, when you see the wonderful way the rooms have been designed (hello, floating books and roof of teacups) along with the amazing painted character portraits, feels like such a cruel rule, but understandable, as so much planning and effort has obviously been put in to this, so no leaked pictures is a great way to keep the magic alive for new visitors.

I left the exhibition with a massive urge to re-read the series immediately, I want to be immersed in this magical world again! I just have to find a way of adding seven more books to my TBR list…

This really is a must-see for any Potter devotee, you can get tickets here, I’d recommend pre-booking as it’s selling out pretty quickly!

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