Harry Potter: A History of Magic opens at the British Library from October 20, 2017 to February 28, 2018

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the exhibition combines centuries-old British Library treasures, including the oldest items in its collection, the Chinese Oracle bones, with original material from Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury and J.K. Rowling’s own archives, on display for the first time.

The exhibition includes stunning loans from national and international institutions – including broomsticks, wands and crystal balls. A 400-year-old celestial globe, enhanced with augmented reality technology, in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, will enable visitors to explore the constellations in the night sky.

The British Library will also be simultaneously launching a regional roll-out of Harry Potter: A History of Magic with specially designed panels inspired by the London exhibition going on display in 20 public libraries across the UK, highlighting each library’s local connections to magic and folklore.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Annotated sketch of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by J.K. Rowling, complete with the giant squid that lives in the lake
  • J.K. Rowling’s handwritten list of the teachers and subjects at Hogwarts
  • Original artwork by Jim Kay for the illustrated Harry Potter editions, including paintings and sketches of Harry Potter, the Hogwarts Express, Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Hagrid
  • The Ripley Scroll – a 6 meter-long alchemical manuscript that describes how to make the Philosopher’s Stone, from the 1500s
  • Chinese Oracle bones – the oldest datable items in the British Library’s collection, one of which records a lunar eclipse that is precisely datable to December 27, 1192 BC
  • Celestial globe dating from 1693, made by Vincent Coronelli and brought to life using augmented reality technology, in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture, which enables visitors to spin the globe virtually and explore in detail the ancient constellations, some of which share their names with familiar characters from the Harry Potter stories, such as Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Bellatrix LeStrange and Draco Malfoy
  • An early written record of “abracadabra”, used as a charm to cure malaria
  • An Arabic illuminated manuscript showing male and female mandrakes
  • The tombstone of Nicolas Flamel, a real historical figure who also features in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Black moon crystal ball, used by ‘Smelly Nelly’, a Paignton witch from the 20th century who had a taste for strong perfume
  • A mermaid, allegedly caught in Japan in the 18th century

Ahead of opening, Harry Potter: A History of Magic has already sold over 30,000 tickets – the highest amount of advance tickets ever sold for a British Library exhibition. Tickets and more information are available to buy from the British Library website.


US fans will also be able to enjoy Harry Potter: A History of Magic at the New-York Historical Society in October 2018, following its run at the British Library in London.  This is the first time the British Library has taken an exhibition to the US.

The exhibition’s New York opening marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US by Scholastic, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK. A companion book will be published by Scholastic in the US in autumn 2018.


ATBL Meets the Prince of Wales

David Redden, President,  Seana Anderson, Executive Director, and Trustees of the ATBL were invited to the opening of the Magna Carta Exhibition at the British Library on March 12, 2015.  David and Seana, as representatives of the ATBL, were presented to HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales, to receive acknowledgement of ATBL’s $56,000 in support of the Exhibition.  A video from Bill Clinton was played and thanks extended to The New York Public Library for its loan of Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence; and to The US National Archives for its loan of the Delaware copy of the US Bill of Rights, both displayed in the UK for the first time ever.

British Library Current Exhibits

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK

cartoonFeaturing such iconic names as Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), Grant Morrison (Batman: Arkham Asylum) and Posy Simmonds (Tamara Drewe), this exhibition traces the British comics tradition back through classic 1970s titles including 2000AD, Action and Misty to 19th-century illustrated reports of Jack the Ripper and beyond.

Comics Unmasked is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics, showcasing works that uncompromisingly address politics, gender, violence, sexuality and altered states. It explores the full anarchic range of the medium with works that challenge categorisation, preconceptions and the status quo, alongside original scripts, preparatory sketches and final artwork that demystify the creative process.

Enter the subversive and revelatory world of comics, from the earliest pioneers to today’s digital innovators; show runs to August 19, 2014.

Family Drop-In Event at the BL

alice posterYou are personally invited to a curious celebration of the nonsense world of Alice. Hunt the White Rabbit, create a curious upside-down, inside-out wonderland, play strange, silly or sensible games and so much more. But! Remember Rule forty-two:- “All persons more than a mile high to leave.”

That’s not all – we request that you come dressed up as your favourite character, watch not one but two tumbling hedgehogs, take tea (well maybe…) with a dormouse, and meet a flamingo – yes really, meet a flamingo!

Most important of all, see for yourself where it all started: ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ by Lewis Carroll is perhaps the most famous of all the British Library’s 19th-century literary manuscripts. It is Lewis Carroll’s first version of the work later published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), and it’s on display for you to see!!

Welcome from Roly Keating, New BL CEO

Since joining the British Library last September I have greatly appreciated the warm welcome I have received from everyone connected to this great institution, including members of the American Trust for the  British Library.

I have always been a huge admirer of the Library, and it is an enormous privilege now to lead it. Over the past few months I have been able to meet with many of our dedicated members of staff to learn about what they do, and have toured our sites extensively; at our St. Pancras building this has included visits to the basements and a tour of the roof top, as well as the six floors in between. This has enabled me to develop a thorough under-standing of the challenges we face, but more importantly of the great opportunities that are available as we seek to find new ways to share our treasured collections with both our national and international audience.

I am very grateful for the ATBL’s continuing and generous support of the British Library, in financial terms most recently for the King’s Topographical collection digitization project. I am looking forward to the visit by your members to London in March, when I hope you will have the opportunity to enjoy a visit to our exhibition on Mughal India, which has received outstanding reviews since it opened in November.

I am also planning a trip to the US at the end of April and, whilst this will be something of a whistle-stop tour across several states, I hope that I will have the opportunity of meeting some ATBL members. Over the months and years to come I look forward to working with you to continue to build on the great achievements of the British Library.

British Library Appoints New Chief Executive

Outgoing CEO Lynne Brindley, Photo:  BL ; Incoming CEO Roly Keating, Photo: BBC

Outgoing CEO Lynne Brindley, Photo: BL; Roly Keating, Photo: BBC

The Board of the British Library has appointed Roly Keating as the Library’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Keating, currently Director of Archive Content at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and a former Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, will take up his new role on September 12, 2012.

Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chairman of the British Library, said, “Roly Keating has a strong record of creative leadership and strategic innovation at the BBC. He has  a deep commitment to the digital information environment. He is the ideal person to build on the successes of the British Library to ensure that the Library continues to be a leading-edge provider of knowledge as we take forward our Vision for 2020. I look forward to working with him.”

Mr. Keating said, “It’s a huge honor to have the opportunity to lead one of the UK’s greatest cultural institutions. Under Lynne Brindley’s leadership the British Library set standards for the world in the quality of its curatorship and the boldness of its thinking around the new technology. I am looking forward to working with the Library’s talented staff to take it on the next stage of its journey into the digital age.”

Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, said, “During Roly’s 29 years at the BBC he has proved to be one of the corporation’s greatest cultural heavyweights. Roly has always had a keen understanding of the BBC ethos of making the good popular and the popular good. His most recent role as Director of Archive enabled him to start the vital work of opening up the BBC’s archive, making it accessible to audiences across the world. We are hugely grateful for everything he has done for the BBC and delighted that he will now be going on to run another of the UK’s most valuable cultural institutions.”

Roly Keating was born in 1961. He graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1983 with a first class degree in Classics, and joined the BBC as a general trainee that year.

As a producer and director in Music and Arts, Mr. Keating made films for Omnibus, Bookmark and Arena. He was a founding producer and subsequent editor of the long-running arts and media magazine, The Late Show, and was also editor of the literary series Bookmark.

In 1997, Roly became Head of Programming for UKTV, overseeing the launch of the BBC’s joint venture channels. Two years later he was made BBC Controller of Digital Channels, with overall editorial responsibility for BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge. The following year he became Controller of Arts Commissioning, with responsibility for music and arts programming across BBC Television, before moving to BBC Four in December 2001.

As Controller of BBC Four, Roly led the launch of the channel in March 2002. From 2004 to 2008, Roly was Controller of BBC Two. Under his tenure he oversaw the launch of a raft of influential series, as well as memorable programs like Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. BBC Two was named Broadcast Channel of the Year in 2007.

As Director of Archive Content, Roly acted as editorial leader for the BBC’s online services.

Roly Keating will take over from Dame Lynne Brindley, who will be leaving the Library on July 31, 2012 after 12 years as Chief Executive.

Queen Elizabeth Opens the British Library Royal Manuscripts Exhibition

Clare Breay, BL Head Curator Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, with The Queen.  Photo: British Library

Clare Breay, BL Head Curator Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, with The Queen. Photo: British Library

The Queen was on hand to open Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination exhibition at the British Library. On display are 154 manuscripts collected by British Royals over a period spanning 800 years. Her Majesty was particularly taken by a psalter annotated by Henry VIII, according to the UK Press Association release that is printed below.

The British Library’s unique collection of Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts were all once owned by Kings and Queens during medieval times. They are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era. The collection provides a vivid source for understanding royal identity, morality and religious beliefs. The Manuscripts also provide an insight into the learning, faith, artistic trends and international politics of
the times.

The Royal Manuscripts are on exhibit through the middle of March 2012. You can learn more about this exciting collection by tuning in to the BBC Four series Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings.

Toast of the Town

In the tradition of a celebratory beverage, the Library has teamed up with the Gilbert Scott restaurant to provide guests the opportunity to drink to their health with an “Illuminated Cocktail.” Oliver Blackburn, bar manager, has created this very special drink with rum, ginger, pear, juniper, and finished with gold dust. Cheers!


Scot McKendrick, BL Head of History and Classical Studies;  The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen, Baroness Blackstone, The Lord Mayor of Camden.

Scot McKendrick, BL Head of History and Classical Studies; The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen, Baroness Blackstone, The Lord Mayor of Camden.

The Queen had a glimpse into the past lives of her medieval counterparts at the launch of The Royal Manuscripts.

The exhibition, which opened last November, contains a number of manuals on how the royals should conduct themselves.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had a private viewing of five manuscripts on display, including monarchs’ prayer books; a charter commemorating the start of monastic rule of St Benedict in 964; and books made for King Edward IV.

It was Henry VIII’s manuscripts that appeared to grab The Queen’s attention the most. “She did linger over it,” curator Andrea Clarke said. “She called Prince Philip, who was looking at something else, to come and have a look.”Henry VIII’s psalter, a volume containing the Book of Psalms, has a painting of him as the biblical King David. Curator Scot McKendrick said this showed Henry identified himself with King David. He added that Henry’s psalter – which was bought from Ushaw College, Dublin, last year – was rare because it contained annotations written by the king.”Part of it has an annotation written by Henry before he was king and the other was written towards the end of his life,” Dr McKendrick said. “He had a typical aristocrat’s style of writing.”

Copyright © 2011 The Press Association.
All rights reserved.

Landmark Google Partnership

In June 2011 the British Library announced a significant partnership with Google. Google’s interest is to add as much new material to Google Book Search as possible, a mission which dovetails with the BL’s goal of digitizing as much of its collection as possible. Some 250,000 books, totalling around 40 million pages, will be digitized. This represents a small but significant part of BL’s historic printed books collection.

The actual digitization is scheduled to begin in the autumn of 2012, and the project is expected to last four years. By working with Google, the Library will benefit from their enormous presence and experience in the digital universe. Additionally, Google will bear the estimated £6 million costs of digitizing the material.

In undertaking this project, the BL furthers the aspirations of its nineteenth-century predecessors, so eloquently put forth by Antonio Panizzi, an Italian refugee who became head of the BL: “I want a poor student to have the same means of indulging his learned curiosity, of following his rational pursuits, of consulting the same authorities, of fathoming the most intricate inquiry as the richest man in the kingdom, as far as books go.” The BL is now using the latest digital technology to continue the mission for a new generation in the 21st century.

The Library has selected a range of materials dating from 1700 to 1870, for digitization. All selections will be out of copyright, and will be offered free at the point of use through both Google Book Search and the BL’s website. Because there already is so much English language material available on Google Book Search, the BL anticipates that a high proportion of the material will be in languages other than English. One of the early candidates will be its collection of works produced during the French Revolution. But there will also be Anglophone books. One example is An address to the people, on the present relative situations of England and France, written in 1799 by Robert Fellowes. This work comments from a decidedly non-revolutionary position on political reform in both England and France.

The Google partnership is a landmark in the BL’s digitization program. Wherever they are, researchers, students and other Library users, will be able to read these historical items with the freedom to share and re-purpose material for non-commercial use. This flexibility is going to be particularly important in exploring new types of research questions and computer-assisted methods. This partnership is an important chapter in the efforts to achieve the BL’s 2020 vision.
Adapted from an article by Kristian Jensen, Head of Arts and Humanities at the British Library.