Mugglesand wizards alike will be flocking to the British Library this month to explore the history behind JK Rowling’s bestselling Harry Potter series, 20 years after the publication of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
The exhibition is themed around the subjects studied by Harry Potter at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from potions and herbology to astronomy and care of magical creatures. It uses rare books, manuscripts and objects from the British Library’s collections to explore the magic and folklore history that sit at the heart of the novels.
Among the items on show is one of the Ripley Scrolls, a six-metre-long alchemical manuscript from the 16th century that describes how to make the Philosopher’s Stone – a legendary substance supposedly capable of turning metal into gold.
Other promised treasures include historical texts on the safest way to harvest a mandrake or dispose of a cursed ring; a celestial globe dating from 1693; and an early written record of ‘abracadabra’, used as a charm to cure malaria. Visitors can also see original Harry Potter artwork and a mermaid, allegedly caught in Japan in the 18th century.
ABOVE: A phoenix rising from the ashes in a 13thcentury bestiary LEFT: A page from Jacob Meydenbach’s Ortus Sanitatis, 1491, one of the first natural history encyclopedias