An album of highlights from the British Library’s 2017 exhibit commemorating the 20th anniversary of Harry’s first publication.
The exhibit, scheduled to cross the pond in 2018, will eventually get a full catalog, but in the meantime, this makes a handsome place holder. Arranged to reflect the Hogwarts curriculum (“Potions and Alchemy,” “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” etc.), the sections each offer a mix of drawings and work-in-progress pages from J.K. Rowling’s archives, images from old manuscripts or printed books, pictures of artifacts (notably a 3,000-year-old cauldron and a real bezoar), and splendid Renaissance-style portraits of select characters by Jim Kay. Along with such fan-wowers as Rowling’s original typed synopsis of the first episode and a deleted chapter from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, glimpses of pages from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, ancient Chinese oracle bones, an Ethiopian book of charms, and a Thai divination manual testify to the exhibition’s historical and geographical reach. The accompanying notes include introductions to both Leonardo and the real Nicholas Flamel along with quick comments on witchcraft, alchemy, herbology, and diverse occult practices—plus pull quotes from the novels and a few perfunctory recipes for “potions” or other hands-on activities. Nods to spinoffs, from one of the author’s handwritten copies of The Tales of Beadle the Bard to the screenplay and set for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, bring Harry’s epic tale up to the present.
A handsomely produced and properly tantalizing overview of rare treasures from both the series and the cultural context that inspired its magical setting and world. (Nonfiction. 9-14)