Believe it or not, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published 20 years ago. Where better to mark Harry Potter’s birthday than the British Library. Exhibitions at the British Library are always well worth visiting but they have pulled out all the stops for Harry Potter: A History of Magic. The typed synopsis (yes, it was so long ago that people used typewriters) that was sent to twelve publishers before Bloomsbury saw the light, opens the show.
Ever fancied making your own Philosopher’s Stone? This 15th century six metre long scroll tells you how. It is called the Ripley Scroll and takes its name from Canon George Ripley of Bridlington Priory, author of The Compound of Alchemy. It is full of obscure symbols to protect the secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone.
All students at Hogwarts must study Herbology. Whilst Herbology is not part of the national curriculum today, the study of plants and their uses is an ancient one. This fourteenth century book describes in detail both the male and female mandrake.
Not all the objects are just for gazing at. The celestial globe that you can see here is over 400 years old but with the help of Google Arts and Culture you can interact with the globe and see the star formations that feature in Harry Potter. Did you know that Bellatrix Lestrange is a star?
Divination is also an important area of study at Hogwarts. These ‘dragon’ bones are the oldest objects in the British Library collection. Over three thousand years ago Chinese people were using them to tell the future. We know this because the writing talks about a lunar eclipse that can be dated to 27 December 1192 BC! How accurate the predictions the bones made were we don’t know but we do know that the bones are actually cow bones and not sadly from dragons.
All manner of objects are on display including this Beozar stone. It was reputed to be an antidote to all manner of poisons. Harry Potter first comes across one in the Philosopher’s Stone. Apparently Beozar stones are found in the stomach of Beozar goats, you can get them from cows but they are not as efficacious.
If you have ever read Harry Potter or even just seen the films then this is a fascinating exhibition. Deleted passages from the Harry Potter books are on display, along with J K Rowling’s detailed plot outline. Electronic wizardry lets you try your hand at brewing potions and tell fortunes. I have read the books and seen the films many times and there was lots to learn at Harry Potter A History of Magic.
If you are out and about in London this Autumn and wondering what to see then take a look at my What’s on in London Autumn 2017 post.
HARRY POTTER A HISTORY OF MAGIC
- 20 October 2017 – 28 February 2018
- British Library, 96 Euston Road, London
- Open: Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 6pm, Sunday 11am – 5pm
- Admission: Adults £16, Children £8
- DON’T BOTHER TURNING UP WITHOUT A TICKET BOOK ONE HERE
- All tickets are sold out? Don’t despair members of the British Library can visit Harry Potter A History of Magic as often as they like, as well as lots of other perks. Membership costs from £87 a year. To find out more about London Museum Memberships click here.
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