Harry Potter: A History of Magic

“But why’s she got to go to the library?”
“Because that’s what Hermione does” said Ron, shrugging. “When in doubt, go to the library”

From Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

The Magic of Books

As the heroine of the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger would probably tell you, if asked, that anything worth knowing can be found out in a library. And so it is perhaps fitting that the British Library is hosting an exhibition on the magic that inspired J K Rowling's books.

Timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book, the exhibition explores the traditions of folklore and magic that inspired the stories and includes never-before-seen material by both J K Rowling and Jim Kay, the artist who illustrated all seven books.

The exhibition is themed around the subjects that Harry and his friends studied at Hogwarts, from Potions and Herbology to Astronomy and Care of Magical Creatures. Potter fans needn't worry though, as there probably isn't much in the exhibition on the history of goblin rebellions, a subject apparently so dull that Harry declared it "the most boing subject ever devised by wizard-kind."

What you will see is wizarding books, manuscripts and other objects from the library's collection, as well as original material from both Harry Potter publisher Bloombury's and J K Rowling's archives.

The exhibition looks at the background to the Potter books, from mediaeval descriptions of dragons, unicorns and griffins to the origins of the philospher's stone, a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals into silver or gold and giving the user eternal life — look out for the huge 16th-century Ripley Scroll that explains how to create a philosopher's stone.

Need to know

The British Library is one of the world's greatest research libraries. Although relatively young for a national library — it opened in 1973 — its collection is made up from a number of much older libraries, including the British Museum Library, the National Central Library and the Patent Office Library. Manuscripts held include the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Jane Austen's notebook and handwritten lyrics by the Beatles — you can see these and other rare objects from the library's collection in the Treasures of the British Library exhibit in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery.

Find out more


20 October 2017 - 28 February 2018


Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition
PACCAR Gallery
The British Library
96 Euston Road
St Pancras
London NW1 2DB

Opening Times

The exhibition is open as follows:
Monday - 9.30am to 6pm
Tuesday - 9.30am to 8pm
Wednesday - 9.30am to 6pm
Thursday - 9.30am to 6pm
Friday - 9.30am to 6pm
Saturday - 9.30am to 5pm
Sunday - 11am to 5pm

The library is closed from 24 - 27 December and on 1 January.

Ahead of the exhibition opening the library had already sold over 25,000 tickets, the greatest number of advance tickets ever sold for a British Library exhibition, so advance booking is recommended. Allow at least 90 minutes to see the exhibition, which has timed entry. And don't forget to keep an eye out for Hermione, no doubt with her nose buried deep in some dusty magical tome.