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Revelio: Harry Potter at the British Library

harry potter London Tailored Tours British Library exhibition

Now, all you Harry Potter fans know that magic and history go together like Harry and heroism. Or Ron and chocolate frogs. Or, more appropriately, Hermione and a stack of books/scrolls/parchment/elvish welfare leaflets.

So when the British Library announced a special exhibition devoted to magic, history and Harry Potter, we got really excited.

Lucky Linus from Totally Tailored got a sneak peek at the new Harry Potter exhibition, and he’s here to tell you all about it.

broomstick harry potter exhibition british library london tailored tours
A broomstick belonging to Olga Hunt © Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

All together now: Revelio!

Can you believe that the last book in the series was published ten years ago? Or the last of the movies was released seven years ago?

But despite the fact that ‘The Boy Who Lived’ first appeared in print TWENTY years ago, today he’s more popular than ever. 

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then London is the go-to destination.

And this month, The British Library opened their exhibition ‘A History of Magic‘. Totally Tailored was invited to the press launch, and we had a great time getting a look behind the scenes.

Now lots of London’s Harry Potter attractions are all about the films (like the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London,or the House of MinaLima). But this exhibition? It’s absolutely for the fans of the books.

harry potter exhibition british library london tailored tours
Image © Tony Antoniou

Hermione would be in heaven

So if, like me, you think J.K. Rowling is the Queen of the World then this is the place for you. Lots of the exhibits even come directly from her pen! Right at the very beginning you get to see the synopsis of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (or ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’, for our readers across the pond) that she wrote for publishers.

Now, you probably already know that the book was rejected by twelve publishers, before Bloomsbury finally bought the rights. But that was only after the Bloomsbury Chairman’s 8-year-old daughter Alice had fallen in love with the book. One of the most touching things in the exhibition is Alice’s handwritten note on the book for her dad, which convinced him to publish it.

crystal ball London Tailored Tours Harry Potter exhibition British Library
Alice didn’t need a crystal ball to see the Harry Potter books would be a hit!
Small black crystal ball, used by Paignton witch ‘Smelly Nelly’ © Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle

Hogwarts: the History

The exhibition also includes objects from the history behind the magic in Rowling’s books. Of course plenty of the magic came straight from Rowling’s imagination – not to mention her magic touch. But many of the characters, spells, names, and items described in the books have a historical basis.

So, next to the modern texts and artworks you’ll find historical artefacts, books, scrolls and sculptures. The most impressive of these is the Ripley Scroll. This is a famous six-metre-long scroll from the 16th century, and it shows in great detail just how you create the Philosopher’s Stone.

Scroll London Tailored Tours Harry Potter exhibition British Library
The Ripley Scroll, England, 16th century © British Library Board

Yes, the magical stone which would grant you eternal life – and which Voldemort never managed to get his hands on – was a ‘real’ object. Alchemists had been trying to create one since the 11th century.

Although it’s debatable how well the stone actually worked.

After all, it’s rumoured that creator Nicholas Flamel (another character mentioned in the book) has his tombstone on display.

flamel tombstone harry potter exhibition british library london tailored tours
Tombstone of Nicholas Flamel © Musée de Cluny, Paris

However, the most enchanting features of ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic’ are the pieces from J. K. Rowling’s private archive. Some of the modern treasures on display here are early drafts of chapters, a hand drawn map of Hogwarts, and drafts of pages with annotations and crossings out.

The whole experience reminds you just why the books have won the hearts of millions over the years.

Handwritten timetables and her own sketches and drawings are absolutely magical. I’m willing to bet that in hundreds of years’ time you’ll still be able to see them in exhibitions like this one.

harry potter books j k rowling exhibition british library london tailored tours
Credit: lozikiki via VisualHunt / CC BY-ND

For the young ones there are a few interactive displays and digital fun to be had. But if you’re planning to bring kids along it’s probably best if they’re well into reading age.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic tickets are selling out fast, so book ahead.


Where: British Library, 96 Euston Rd, King’s Cross, London, NW1 2DB. Nearest tube stations are King’s Cross St. Pancras and Euston.

When: Daily until 28th February 2018. Tickets are sold in timed slots, 10am-4pm. (Linus recommends setting aside at least two hours to see everything on display)

Price: Adults £16, seniors £11, children £8, concessions £5

Tour guide tip: The exhibition is held very close to some famous Potter movie locations (platform 9 3/4 and the flying car scene, to be specific)


Enjoy Harry Potter’s London on your own private sightseeing tour with Totally Tailored.

Combine these with your visit or let us do the hard work by coming on one of our Harry Potter tours. Just as Harry was shown London by Hagrid, let us whisk you away to the more magical experiences London has to offer. Accio Totally  Tailored!

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