Published: 20th October 2017
Finished reading: April 28
The history of magic is as long as time and as wide as the world. In every culture, in every age, in every place and, probably, in every heart, there is magic.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic reveals some of the hidden stories behind real-world magic and explores some of J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their folkloric, cultural and historical forebears.
This is a must-read for anyone who loves the Harry Potter series. In 2017, a British Library exhibition showcased a collection of weird and wonderful items that helped inspire the series or are in some way related to its mythology, and this book is the perfect accompaniment.
Divided into sections that are dedicated to each subject taught at Hogwarts, every page is awash with either superb detail, or beautiful, vivid artwork. Every item featured in the exhibition is reproduced with a description of its history, with tales and explanations of how magic has been interpreted and depicted throughout time.
I learned so much through reading this book, from the origin of the various methods of divination, to how a number of the magical creatures and their characteristics were partly based on historical documents and folklore. There are also many illustrations of how magic, and in particular witchcraft was almost always portrayed in a negative light.
Scattered throughout the book are some very interesting items provided by J.K. Rowling herself. Some are annotated drafts, or scenes she originally wrote but were later changed as part of the editing process. For example, the flying car was initially meant to crash into the lake with Harry and Ron saved by merpeople, rather than crash into the Whomping Willow.
As I said earlier, the artwork is stunning. Just one look at the front cover can tell you that! Jim Kay is the man responsible, and I am in awe of the level of detail, care, and knowledge that goes into each of his illustrations. They are a visual delight. There are also some of J.K. Rowling’s own drawings, which, though basic, are all pretty good.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was almost, if not just as good as actually being able to attend the exhibition itself. The detail, the range of items featured were just fascinating. It is a sprinkling of Harry Potter magic.