Harry Potter 'History of Magic' exhibit opens in London

England's most famous wizard's apprentice has made it to the hallowed halls of the British Library. 'Harry Potter – a History of Magic' reveals the sorcery at the heart of the Potter series.

The British Library is one of the world's most distinguished research and universal libraries, a veritable treasury of knowledge. It is also a magical place that shelters medieval manuscripts full of fantastic fabled creatures of yore. Some of them resemble the magical figures in the Harry Potter novels. Julian Harrison, lead curator of medieval historical manuscripts at the museum, promises an inspiring and entertaining show for visitors of all ages.

"The exhibition takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the history of magic – from mermaids to crystal balls, from broomsticks to garden gnomes. It’s been enormous fun choosing the exhibits,” said Harrison.

Along the way, the museum staff have encountered historic and mythological tales that served as models for many characters and storylines in the Harry Potter novels. 

“We’ve loved discovering the magical traditions that lie behind the Harry Potter books, and we’ve encountered so many amazing artefacts along the way," said Harrison.

Many of the creatures are also J.K. Rowling's inventions, however. The mythical phoenix on the other hand is part of medieval mythology, and the mandrake is a root that in ancient times was said to have magical powers. 

Highlight for Potter fans

Even 20 years after the first novel was released, the fascination with Potter and his magical world has not waned. Joanne K. Rowling created a functioning world that sounds so credible that even "muggles"  people who have no magical skills at all  would like to believe in it.

The story of wizardry student Harry Potter who succeeds to vanquish his arch enemy and his parents' murderer fills seven thick tomes, released between 1997 and 2007. The books have been translated into about 80 languages, and have been sold worldwide more than 450 million times.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic eröffnet bei der British Library

Magical medieval memorabilia

The film versions (2001 - 2011) with Daniel Radcliffe starring as Harry Potter netted almost 7 billion euros ($ 8.2 billion) at the box office.

The first official Potter story to be shown on a stage debuted last year at London's Palace Theatre: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." Potter is a husband and father, and struggles with his youngest son, Albus Severus. The conflict Harry Potter and his friends had during their youth with evil and its representatives in their magical world continues into the next generation. The book also turned into a bestseller.

The London exhibition (October 20, 2017 to February 28, 2018 ) is sure to lure Harry Potter fans as well as all those other muggles interested in magic, alchemy and mythology.

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World's most famous wizard

Boy wizard Harry Potter has been with us ever since author J.K. Rowling released the first book in her seven-part series in 1997. Soon after, in 2001, the first film adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe (above, in the 2002 sequel) was released, with the final movie hitting cinemas a decade later. Along the way, of course, came a massive wave of merchandise…

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Magical amusements

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park opened in Orlando, Florida in 2010. Two other parks have since opened in Osaka, Japan and Los Angeles. The parks recreate the village of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle, promising visitors a one-hour exploration experience on an "enchanted bench." Technically, that's true - the ride queue takes about an hour. The actual journey lasts only four minutes.

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Shopping paradise

In 2014, the Diagon Alley attraction opened at the other end of the Orlando theme park, with the Hogwarts Express train ready to take visitors back and forth. Alongside the Gringotts Wizarding Bank (complete with dragon on the roof), this shopping paradise for wizards and witches offers everything imaginable. Broomsticks can be purchased for a mere $250 (225 euros); a Gryffindor scarf costs $35.

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Deceptive sweets

The top seller are the Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, produced by Jelly Belly, specialists in jelly beans with amazing flavors. A delicious treat? Not necessarily - ever since the first book it's been clear these beans can also taste pretty disgusting. Some flavors: earthworm, rotten egg, soap, grass - even vomit. But with any luck, you might find something like melon, cotton candy or cherry.

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Pilgrimage site King's Cross

The London train station hides a "secret" access portal to the magical platform 9 3/4, where the Hogwarts Express waits to whisk students away to school. Those who want to make it through need to concentrate and aim their luggage cart directly into the brick wall. It's become a must-see site for Harry Potter fans - though Muggles, or non-magic folk, won't get very far.

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Bridge to Hogwarts

This bridge wasn't recreated at the Universal theme park - it's real. It, too, has become a stop on the Harry Potter sightseeing tour, though somewhat off the beaten track in the Scottish Highlands. The Glenfinnan Viaduct was built in the late 19th century and is part of the West Highland Line. The train in the picture, however, is not the Hogwarts Express but The Jacobite, a tourist steam train.

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The Philosopher's Lego brick

At the age of 10, Potter fanatic Midas Kempcke began expanding Rowling's magical world. Kempcke, of Hamburg, has written his own stories and screenplays and recreated Hogwarts using Lego bricks, down to the last detail. He has also produced short stop-motion video clips featuring the characters, including Harry and his nemesis Draco Malfoy, seen here. Kempcke has won multiple awards for his work.

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Staying grounded

Quidditch, a full-contact sport, actually takes place in midair. Players fly about on brooms trying to throw the Quaffle through one of their opponents' three circular gates, while avoiding treacherous Bludgers. The player who manages to catch the elusive Golden Snitch wins the game. Muggles play a version of the game on the ground, as seen here in Bonn. Without magic, of course.

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Online universe

The Pottermore website is the "digital heart of the magical world," home to everything fans could ever want: a space to interact, an online shop and the only place where Harry Potter books are available in e-book form (sorry, Amazon). In addition, fans also receive the occasional tidbit about the two-part play, "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," which premiered in London's West End in July 2016.

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Even more Potter

Ever since a new Harry Potter story was announced for the London in summer 2016, fans have been overjoyed. Though not everyone can make it to the UK for the theater performance, Rowling kept her fans in mind and released a book based on the play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," on July 31 - Harry Potter's birthday. The story takes place 19 years after the last novel.

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