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Harry Potter and a spell of magic at Sheffield libraries

17 October 2017

Fans of Harry Potter are set to be spellbound by a nine-week exhibition and programme of events at Sheffield libraries celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The ‘Harry Potter: A history of magic’ exhibition is being opened at Sheffield Central Library on Friday, 20 October by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield. This marks the start of a programme of events for all ages with: magic-themed crafts during half-term, Harry Potter quizzes and a series of family-friendly sessions delivered by the University of Sheffield relating to their cutting edge research and the world of wizardry and magic.

Sheffield has a special connection with J. K. Rowling after awarding her the Sheffield Children’s Book Award for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997. This was one of the first awards presented to the Harry Potter author. The presentation was made by Michael Palin before the pair visited Clifford School to read together to the children.

Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure, said: “The Harry Potter books are the biggest literary phenomenon of the last 50 years and have been read by millions of people in more than 60 languages.

“I’m delighted we’re celebrating twenty years of Harry Potter at the Central Library, and are proud we were one of the first to recognise J.K. Rowling’s incredible talent with the Sheffield Children’s Book Award.

“There are more than 30 events running across the nine weeks, as well as the exhibition. There’s something for everyone of all ages and the vast majority are free, so book on to register and let your imagination run free.”

Highlight events in the programme include:

  • Magical-themed craft sessions for children based on different Hogwarts subjects including want making, charms and astronomy – taking place at the Central Library and Hillsborough, Manor, Parson Cross and Firth Park from 30 October to 3 November.
  • Harry Potter book quiz for families – with dressing up encouraged, on 25 November.
  • Sessions by the University of Sheffield exploring the Language of Magic on the 13th November, Divination 101: the science of foreseeing your decisions on the 6th December and Invisible Astronomy on the 13th December.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City & Culture Office of Regional Engagement and Partnerships at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Library on enhancing this fantastic event with our world class research – colleagues from across the university will entertain and educate you and hopefully enchant you with the wonders of science art and language that underpin this modern classic.”

The Harry Potter exhibition includes books and artefacts from more than five miles of shelving stored in the Central Library basement and strong-rooms, some of which are more than 400 years old. Those on display in the library’s Reading Room will include:

  • Owl illustrations from ‘A Natural History of Birds’ by Elaezor Albin, published in 1738. This was the first British work of ornithology to feature coloured plates. The drawings were based upon real birds either living or stuffed and hand coloured by Albin or his daughter Elizabeth. Fewer than 100 copies of the book were issued and sold.
  • Notes on the Bezoar Stone (used by Harry potter in potions class) and ‘A History of the Wonderful Things of Nature’, written by Johannes Jonstonus in 1657. This describes the properties of the bezoar stone as an antidote ‘against all venome’ and describes how it may be used.
  • Instructions for using Magic Wands: In 1546, Georgius Agricola published a discourse on mining and metallurgy as it was understood at that time. In this illustrated Latin edition of De Re Metallica we find instructions for locating metal through the use of ‘magic wands’.

Visit www.sheffieldlibraries.eventbrite.co.uk for more information about the events and to book places.

The exhibition and programme of events has been developed by Sheffield City Council working with the British Library and University of Sheffield. The Harry Potter: A History of Magic display has been created in association with the British library and is being enjoyed simultaneously across the Living Knowledge Network, an innovative partnership with 22 major libraries across the UK, and in tandem with the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition at the British Library in London.

At the British Library in London, Harry Potter: A History of Magic celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, combining centuries-old British Library treasures with original material from Bloomsbury’s and J.K. Rowling’s own archives. Based on the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, this exhibition will showcase material from J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury’s own collections, going on display for the very first time.

Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library said of the project: “We are delighted to be working with 20 different public libraries across the UK to share our exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic. The Living Knowledge Network is all about sharing resources, skills and ideas to make our intellectual heritage available to everyone and here we’ve championed what lies at the heart of the Harry Potter stories that resonates deeply with people across the country to achieve this. The roll-out truly encapsulates the convening power of bringing local and national treasures together through the partners.”

Visit www.bl.uk/projects/harry-potter-a-history-of-magic-public-library-displays for more information.