Harry Potter: A History of Magic Explores Folklore and Magic at the New-York Historical Society


British Library’s Most Successful Exhibition Marks the 20th Anniversary of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Publication in the U.S. by Scholastic

Exhibition on view October 5, 2018 – January 27, 2019

New York, NY – April 26, 2018
– Following a blockbuster run at the British Library in London, Harry Potter: A History of Magic tickets go on sale today at the New-York Historical Society, which will host the exhibition from October 5, 2018 – January 27, 2019. Excitingly, the exhibition will display many new artifacts for the first time, and beginning today, tickets for trivia programs and a series of family events associated with the exhibition will also be available.

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, the exhibition features centuries-old treasures, including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, the New-York Historical Society, and other museums, as well as original material from publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.

Unique to the New York presentation—and on public view for the first time—are Mary GrandPré’s pastel illustrations for the cover artwork of Scholastic’s original editions of the novels; Brian Selznick’s newly created artwork for the covers of the anniversary edition of the Harry Potter series to be published by Scholastic this summer; cover art by Kazu Kibuishi featured in Scholastic’s 15th anniversary boxset; early letters between J.K. Rowling and American editor of the series Arthur A. Levine; and the enormous steamer trunk used to transport a signed copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the Queen Mary to the U.S. The exhibition will also include costumes and set models from the new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, now running on Broadway, as well as a collection of international editions of Harry Potter.

Also on display for the first time in the U.S. are handwritten first drafts from The Philosopher’s Stone and Deathly Hallows, the author’s hand-drawn sketch of the Hogwarts grounds, and portraits and sketches of Hogwarts professors and magical creatures created by British illustrator Jim Kay.

John James Audubon’s watercolor of Snowy Owls, a 1693 publication defending the Salem witch trials, a study of the Woolworth Building—the landmark New York location featured in the film Fantastic Beasts—and other artifacts from New-York Historical’s collection round out the original offerings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Botanical Garden Library, Yale University, and the American Museum of Natural History Library are among other lenders to the exhibition.

“We are proud indeed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by bringing this special exhibition across the pond to American audiences,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “The show offers a unique opportunity for Happy Potter fans as well as history lovers to engage in and enjoy the history of magic that makes J.K. Rowling’s works such extraordinary literature.”

Harry Potter: A History of Magic is organized around the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry:

  • Potions and Alchemy, showcasing a bezoar stone that reputedly provided a powerful antidote to poison, the tombstone of Nicolas Flamel—the medieval Parisian rumored to be an alchemist who inspired a character in Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—and Yale University’s Ripley Scroll depicting symbolic references to the philosopher’s stone;
  • Herbology, featuring illustrated herbals (directories of plants and their powers), such as Giovanni Cadamosto’s 15th-century manuscript showing the harvesting of a mandrake plant with a root that resembles the human form, and an example of an 18th century-pressed plant from the New York Botanical Garden Library: the Adonis Vernalis, or fake Hellebore;
  • Divination, with ancient oracle bone fragments on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a black moon crystal ball used by “Smelly Nelly,” a 20th-century British witch who used strong perfume to attract the spirits she believed helped her to see the future; and a 19th century fortune-telling doll from New-York Historical’s collection;
  • Charms, which includes the first written record of the incantation ‘abracadabra,’ dating from the 13th century, and a 1693 edition of The Wonders of the Invisible World, written by Cotton Mather, a Congregational minister in Boston, as his justification for the Salem witchcraft trials;
  • Astronomy, featuring a 1699 celestial globe by famed cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, pages from a notebook compiled by the artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci that show the sun and moon revolving round the Earth, and a 13th century astrolabe thought to be one of the oldest geared instruments still extant, from the American Museum of Natural History Library;
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts, featuring a magic staff (1998) carved from timber and Mary GrandPré’s original jacket artwork for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; and
  • Care of Magical Creatures, including a 13th-century bestiary manuscript depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes, a narwhal tusk, and John James Audubon’s watercolor of snowy owls.

The original exhibition was organized by British Library curators Julian Harrison, Tanya Kirk, Alexander Lock, and Joanna Norledge. In New York, the exhibition is overseen by Margi Hofer, New-York Historical’s vice president and museum director, and Cristian Petru Panaite, assistant curator of exhibitions. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

A complete hardcover exhibition catalog, published by Scholastic simultaneously with the opening of the exhibition, invites readers to explore the extraordinary subjects of the Hogwarts curriculum—Potions & Alchemy, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, and more—and examine the over 150 items on display, including incredible historical artifacts, pieces from J.K. Rowling’s personal archive, early letters between J.K. Rowling and American editor Arthur A. Levine, and stunning original artwork from Harry Potter series artists Mary GrandPré, Jim Kay, and Brian Selznick. This special publication is an essential volume for Harry Potter fans, history buffs, and bibliophiles, and a fascinating exploration of the history of the magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories. An enhanced ebook edition is also published simultaneously by Pottermore Publishing.

Throughout the run of the exhibition, New-York Historical will offer fun, interactive activities for Harry Potter fans of all ages. Monthly trivia nights put fans’ knowledge of the Wizarding World to the test. Family programs include hands-on activities and crafts like decorating Hogwarts House badges, a Harry Potter family book club, a writing workshop for young authors, and a historical Hallowe’en celebration. Additional adult events including engaging talks and unique programs illuminating the history of magic will be unveiled in the upcoming months.

Timed-entry tickets for the exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors (65+), $13 for students, $6 for kids ages 5–13, and free for children ages 0–4; tickets include admission to the rest of the Museum. Harry Potter: A History of Magic will be open to the public from October 5, 2018 – January 27, 2019, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 10 am–6 pm; Friday 10 am–9 pm; and Sunday 10 am–5 pm. The last entry will be 45 minutes before closing. Please check our calendar for occasional gallery closures and special open days. Visit harrypotter.nyhistory.org for FAQ and to purchase tickets. Some programs may involve additional costs.

20th Anniversary
September 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Scholastic kicked off its year-long celebration in January 2018. The Wizarding World will have one of its busiest years ever in the U.S., with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child now on Broadway; the British Library’s exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic, opening at the New-York Historical Society in October; and the premiere of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, opening in cinemas in November. The Harry Potter books have sold more than 180 million copies in the U.S. alone and more than 500 million copies worldwide. The books are published in more than 200 territories in 80 languages.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum at the New-York Historical Society presents 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games, and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum encourages families to explore history together through permanent installations and a wide range of family learning programs for toddlers, children, and preteens.

About the British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research, and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilization and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers, and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Every year, up to 10 million people visit the British Library website?www.bl.UK?where they can view up to four million digitized collection items and more than 40 million pages. See more at: www.bl.uk

About Scholastic Corporation
Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, a leading provider of core literacy curriculum and professional services, and a producer of educational and entertaining children’s media. The Company creates quality books and ebooks, print and technology-based learning programs for pre-K to grade 12, classroom magazines and other products and services that support children's learning both in school and at home. With operations in 14 international offices and exports to 165 countries, Scholastic makes quality, affordable books available to all children around the world through school-based book clubs and book fairs, classroom collections, school and public libraries, retail and online. True to its mission of 97 years to encourage the personal and intellectual growth of all children beginning with literacy, the Company has earned a reputation as a trusted partner to educators and families. Learn more at www.scholastic.com.

About Pottermore Publishing
Pottermore Publishing is the global digital publisher of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series as well as other audiobooks and eBooks from the Wizarding World. It aims to lead the way in innovative digital publishing and to bring new generations of readers together with long-standing fans, celebrating and bringing to life the stories that first began with the Boy Who Lived.

Press Contacts

Ines Aslan, New-York Historical Society
212.485.9263 / Ines.aslan@nyhistory.org

Julia Esposito, Polskin Arts
212.715.1643 / julia.esposito@finnpartners.com

Elsie King, British Library
0207 412 7105 / Elsie.King@bl.uk