A History of Magic at the British Library

My dad gave me my first Harry Potter book when I was 11 years old and I’ve been a fan ever since. I was enraptured by the mystery, magic and fantasy as well as J.K.’s vivid and relatable writing style and impressive roster of characters. A History of Magic exhibition held at the PACCAR gallery at the British Library runs until 28 February 2018 and exposes where the ‘myth and magic began.’

The exhibition reveals some of J.K.’s most intimate works; her illustrations (her illustration of Diagon Ally is absolutely amazing), alternate drafts, her synopsis of the Philosopher’s Stone and pages and pages of indecipherable writing peppered with asterixis and scrawls in the margins, as she struggled to wrestle her imagination to the page. It’s a very insightful view into the mind of a very creative soul and it perfectly encompasses the messiness and ‘explosion’ of being a writer. Sometimes when I write, I assume that it has to look perfect, neat and tidy. J.K. reminded me that the true process of writing is quite chaotic. It has to be refined and tempered. I found this quite reassuring. I am a writer after all!

As well as exposing J.K.’s thoughts on magic and how meaningful it is to adults and children alike, the exhibition teaches visitors about the real history of magic in the form of manuscripts, books and magical objects from the British Library’s own collection. Witchcraft is a huge part of British history and many of the items on display are centuries old and include broomsticks, wands, cauldrons and crystal balls as well as the detailed Ripley Scroll, which details the process of creating a Philosopher’s Stone.

Highlights included artwork by Jim Kay, the black moon crystal ball used by real life witch ‘Smelly Nelly’ who doused herself in perfume as she believed the pungent smell drew spirits to her, and J.K.’s thoughts on the sorting hat. It’s interesting to see how J.K. decided on different aspects of her story when she clearly had so many varying ideas. It reminded me of the importance of being decisive. It was always fascinating to see how  J.K. envisioned Hogwarts and various characters, giving insight into her own private world. You also learn that the term ‘abracadabra’ was first used as a spell to ward off malaria.

The exhibition ends with a small gift shop where you can purchase Harry Potter related paraphernalia. It’s heart-warming to see people of all ages enjoying the beauty of this world and losing themselves in a fantasy that still feels rooted in some kind of reality and still obeys the laws of our world.

For American fans, the exhibition moves to New York in the autumn of 2018 and will be held at the New-York Historical Society from October. If you’re a hardcore HP fan or a lover of all things magical, make sure you don’t miss it. Tickets are free for members and cost £16 for adults.

All my love

K

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