Catch a glimpse of the real-world magic behind Harry Potter

October 31, 2017

No, Hogwarts isn’t real (no matter how much we wish it were), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t actual history behind the magic taught in its hallowed halls. And if you’re in London this winter, you can learn about the real-world magic and folklore that inspired J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter novels at the British Library in an exhibit entitled Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

The exhibit, in partnership with UK publisher Bloomsbury, compiles a variety of books, manuscripts, scrolls, and artifacts from across the globe detailing a cultural history of the arcane and mystical, along with never-before-seen glimpses at original notes and drafts of J.K. Rowling’s novels and illustrations by Jim Kay.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is the Ripley Scroll: a massive, 16th century document that gives instructions on how to build a Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical device that could, according to legend, transmute metal into gold. Additional pieces include an ancient celestial globe for stargazing, Chinese oracle bones, the Battersea Cauldron, hand-painted drawings of mythical beasts, and much more.

The exhibit is launching to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (better known to Americans as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). In an article written by the Los Angeles Times, lead curator Julian Harrison described the event as “a great way to actually mark [the anniversary], as well as explore the history of magic in a wider context.”

The main exhibit will run from October 20, 2017 to February 28, 2018 at the British Library in London. 20 public libraries throughout the United Kingdom will also feature displays containing pieces from the collection. Visit the official event page for more information on the exhibit and how you can book your own tickets, or visit this page for a full list of additional libraries featuring displays.

If you’re not able to make it to London by the end of February to check out the exhibit, don’t worry: Harry Potter: A History of Magic will move to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in October 2018, and will partner with Scholastic to add US-specific artifacts to the exhibit.