Items on display include Nicolas Flamel's gravestone and an ancient drawing of a phoenix

By Christian Holub
October 19, 2017 at 01:30 PM EDT
Peter Mountain/Warner Bros.

Twenty years since its debut, the Harry Potter franchise is still as strong as ever. To commemorate the anniversary, the British Library will open its Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit this week. In J.K. Rowling’s books, “History of Magic” was the name of the most boring class Harry and his friends had to take at Hogwarts. But the British Library is taking the phrase seriously, offering an exploration of the real-life history of magic. The exhibit will include early book drafts from Rowling’s archives, along with original drawings by Jim Kay (whose illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban recently hit stores), but it will also feature several fascinating real-life artifacts dating back to times when people actually believed in magic.

Artifacts on display will include the first recorded mention of “abracadabra” (originally intended as a cure for malaria, transformed centuries later by Rowling into “Avada Kedavra,” the ultimate Killing Curse), the tombstone of Nicolas Flamel (who was a real historical figure, not just the alchemist from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), a Bezoar stone, a broomstick from the Museum of Witchcraft, and a drawing of a Fawkes-like phoenix rising from the ashes in a 13th-century bestiary.

The exhibit will also come with two related books, Harry Potter: A History of Magic and Harry Potter: A Journey Through A History of Magic (which is the shorter, more family-friendly version). The British Library exhibit opens on Oct. 20 and lasts through Feb. 28. It will open at the New York Historical Society in October 2018, whereupon Scholastic will publish a companion book.

British Library Board
Paris, Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge
The Board of the Trustees of the Science Museum, London
Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle
British Library