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Stuff We Love: Two books to transport you to where you really belong: Hogwarts

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Kristin.Baver
Dec 12, 2017

You don't have to be Hermione Granger to appreciate a pair of new tomes that take a deep dive into the real-life lore and painstaking artistry that made J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series come alive on page and screen.

Since it first debuted some 20 years ago, the books and films have captivated audiences young and young-at-heart with the majestic wizarding world, infused with history and mythological inspirations throughout the immersive adventures of the boy who lived.

But for the most devoted fans, there's always more to learn, more to see, more to know about every last detail that went into the making of the beloved tales. And The Art of Harry Potter and Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic do their best to satisfy even the most ardent Potterheads among us.

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First up: The Art of Harry Potter.

Hermione would have squealed with delight and then promptly checked out this captivating coffee-table book, shrugging away any trepidation at having to lug it about the hallowed halls of Hogwarts.

In 363 pages, the dense volume unlocks the hidden depths of the brilliant concept artists' work that reinterpreted Rowling's words and vision for the films. There is the first inklings of the lush scenery, ideas on costume sketches and character studies that show the evolution of the charming half-giant Hagrid and He Who Must Not Be Named himself, as well as the magical creatures so central to the stories.

With tens of thousands of props populating some scenes, there's no way to cram everything into one book alone. But the editors pay homage to some of the most strikingly detailed props and artifacts, including a handful of the castle portraits, whimsical wizard inventions, and the pure imagination infused in each insignia, every document, and individually detailed wands.

It's like wrapping up a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour outside London and taking it home with you to enjoy whenever you desire.

 

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For a more scholarly study of Rowling's books, and the real-life legends that inspired them, there's  Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic. It's a companion piece to a current exhibition at the British Library running through February 28 then moving on to New York later in 2018. 

For fellow writers and museum buffs, there's Rowling's original synopsis, sketches of the characters as she first imagined them, deleted scenes and draft pages in the middle of necessary edits. A handwritten plan for the fifth book in the series showcases the complexity of Rowling's storytelling prowess and the lengths she went to layout the tales before beginning her drafts. Perhaps most charming is what can be construed as Rowling's first note from a fan, scribbled by hand by Alice Newton, aged eight.

In keeping with the museum feel, there's a pinch of real history with old artifacts and woodcut engravings, a medieval bestiary, and some history on the real Nicolas Flamel, as well as activities for younger fans to try at home.

Laid out like a journey through courses like Herbology and Potions, the book (and the exhibit) offers a glimpse at Rowling's creative process with plenty of reverence for the history of magic as we know it.