Harry Potter: A History of Magic

harry potter a history of magic


Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and the brilliant curators of the British Library. It promises to take readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – from Alchemy and Potions classes through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.

Required reading for every Harry Potter fan! I originally picked this up after skimming through it at the bookstore and seeing images of drafts and annotations of the original books, so I had to buy it. This book is the written equivalent of walking through the British Library’s actual museum Harry Potter: A History of Magic. It focuses heavily on the historical precedents for everything found in the series by filtering it through the various school subjects Harry, Ron, and Hermione take. I learned so much reading this book and am so happy I decided to pay the expensive price tag.

Below I’ve summarized each section briefly and included an interesting picture.

The Journey: This section features amazing insights into the publication and editing processes. It focuses mainly on the Philosopher’s Stone.

Potions and Alchemy: interesting look at the history of alchemy and how Rowling included the various historical pieces in the series. It also looks at the history of witchcraft and the various symbols associated with it.
The best part of the section is the history of bezoar stones

Herbology: This section is not as interesting as the previous chapters since the information given does not relate as directly to the books, although I did really enjoy the information about mandrakes.

Charms: This section offers an interesting look at the various charms used throughout the series and an in depth look at the logical use of charms in the wizarding world.
The best part is the explanation of the origin of abracadabra.

Astronomy: This chapter doesn’t relate specifically to Harry Potter other than the connection of names used in the series to stars/constellations, but does give interesting information about the history of stargazing.
The best part of this chapter was seeing Rowling’s notes about teachers’ names and subjects.

Divination: This chapter was my least favourite of all, however the origin of the mirror of erised made up for it.

Defence Against the Dark Arts: This section offers an interesting look at the historical precedent of warding off evil spirits and witches.

Care of Magical Creatures: If you bought this book in hopes of gaining insight into Rowling writing process and deleted scene, then this is the chapter you’ll find most satisfying.

Past, Present, Future: This section felt rushed and incomplete, but did include pictures of Rowling’s annotated Philosopher’s Stone.

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