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Harry Potter: A History of Magic  By  cover art

Harry Potter: A History of Magic

By: Pottermore Publishing,Ben Davies
Narrated by: Natalie Dormer
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Listen to clips from this book

Divination: Ready for a lesson in real-world Divination? Take a seat, Trelawney.
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Charms: What are the origins of the word Abracadabra?
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Herbology: Earmuffs away—you won’t need them for this real-world lesson on Mandrakes.
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Potions: Unicorn horns have long been used in potions and medicines.
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Defense Against the Dark Arts: What is the significance of the wand?
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  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Divination: Ready for a lesson in real-world Divination? Take a seat, Trelawney.
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Charms: What are the origins of the word Abracadabra?
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Herbology: Earmuffs away—you won’t need them for this real-world lesson on Mandrakes.
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Potions: Unicorn horns have long been used in potions and medicines.
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts: What is the significance of the wand?

Publisher's summary

The history of magic is as long as time and as wide as the world. In every culture, in every age, in every place and, probably, in every heart, there is magic.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic reveals some of the hidden stories behind real-world magic and explores some of J.K. Rowling's magical inventions alongside their folkloric, cultural and historical forebears.

Narrator Natalie Dormer and a host of experts will take you on an audio journey like no other; from ancient China, to a 14th-century apothecary's shop, on to the Salem witch trials and beyond. They delve into a rich body of writings about magic and explore intriguing artefacts to bring to life deep-rooted ideas of mysticism from around the world.

Along the way, you can listen for handy tips on how to capture a basilisk, make yourself invisible or create your very own philosopher's stone. You'll hear about the dozens of drafts and drawings that went into J.K. Rowling's writing process and enjoy exclusive interviews with Jim Dale, Stephen Fry and illustrator Jim Kay, who all share their experiences of working on these incredible stories.

The extraordinary and thought-provoking tales in this audiobook are perfect for anyone who wants to know a little more about magic and the wizarding world.

In this audio documentary, Natalie Dormer takes you on a spellbinding exploration of the real-world history that influenced J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories. While not written by J.K. Rowling herself, nor taught by the slumbering Professor Binns, the documentary is inspired by the exhibition held at the British Library in 2017, which came to the New-York Historical Society in 2018. This audiobook is packed full of exclusive interviews, folkloric facts, and musings on intriguing artifacts and mysticism from around the world.

Music composed by Patrick Neil Doyle

Sound effects licensed from ProSound Effects 

©2018 J.K. Rowling/Pottermore Ltd. (P)2018 J.K. Rowling/Pottermore Ltd.

What listeners say about Harry Potter: A History of Magic

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    4 out of 5 stars

Why is there no PDF?

There are so many things described that are hard to picture, especially since they may be one of a kind pieces. Knowing it was a walk through the exhibit, I expected there to be a pdf to help those of us who may never make it to the museum to see it. Natalie Dormer was an excellent narrator, a few of the guest speakers were so soft spoken that at times they were hard to hear even while increasing the volume.

I enjoyed the book but was bummed that there weren't any pdfs to see some of the things that were described.

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161 people found this helpful

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Not what I was expecting, though some parts were g

I was expecting an audio book take on the in-universe A History of Magic, only to find a behind the scenes at what inspired Harry Potter. Disappointed, though the interview segments were a nice touch.

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108 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Springboard to a history of our Muggle world

Is this for a fan of Harry Potter? Maybe. Is it for a fan of Harry Potter who is also interested in the stranger side of world history? Definitely.

The book is not exactly about HP, but uses the books as a spring board to talk about other things – mostly our real world history.

It is a bit of Making of HP, filled with interviews from those involved in the book such as artists who drew the pictures and covers, and those that recorded the audiobooks, but that isn’t really the focus of the book. These are placed in between the main focus of the book: history.

The book is really a history of ‘magic’ in our muggle world. So not talking about the ‘in universe’ magic, but looking at real life events. It uses HP to guide the discussion of our history, and also uses real world histories to give insight into how JKR wrote the books and incorporated real items, Latin roots, and history into her books. One example is 14th century apothecaries (potions masters) and what they used to create ‘magic’. They talk to experts on the apothecaries and discuss some of the ingredients they used, and what for. Unicorns horn and narwhal horn are discussed, for example. Some of the potions are shown to be completely useless, while others are discussed as actually having some good medical effects.

The book uses each of the classes students take at Hogwarts as a launching board to discuss the history and beliefs associated with this teachings.

A few other things (not an exhaustive list) discussed and expanded on:
• Witch trials (the history of them, and discussions on how our view and tropes of witches developed – cauldrons, brooms etc.)
• Magical creatures (real life unicorns and a real history of ‘unicorn’ hunting – although not quite what we image unicorns to be. Why are familiars always Owls, toads and cats?)
• Charms and words like ‘abracadabra’, looking at where the words developed
• Herbology (similar to magical creatures, but looking at strange things people have used plants for)
• Other classes taken at Hogwarts – divination, astronomy, defense against the dark arts etc.
• The real Nicholas Flemmel, Philosopher's stone

There is a lot of ‘museum directors’ interviewed in this, filling out the histories, and discussions with people from British Libraries.

There isn’t a whole lot of ‘new’ information here, but it is a collected and nicely packaged history, with lots of interviews and excerpts from the HP audiobooks. There is discussions of drawings or storyboards – either stuff JKR did while putting her story together or of official images in the were in the books, which would work much better for an ebook or physical version. An inclusion of a PDF with the discussed images would have been really nice, as without them you can be a little lost.

Natalie Dormer does the main narration, around the interviews, putting them in context of the larger picture. She does really great with this. Very enjoyable to listen to, well paced and clear while keeping your attention. The interviews are generally really good. Occasionally there is an interview where the audio quality is lower but generally it is high quality.

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99 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant

This book is really fantastic. Don’t be fooled by the title as this is a nonfiction book examining both the Harry Potter series and the origins of many of the mythological creatures and ideas presented. That being said this is well worth the 12 hour listen. If you have the physical copy of the book, you should know that this covers a vast amount of information that the books do not. There are tons of interviews with everyone involved with the project of creating the museum exhibits. There are also fascinating and revealing interviews with many of the people involved with making the books, including: both the American and the British audiobook Harry Potter narrators, the illustrator of the illustrated editions, the publishers in both America and Britain, and many others. In summary, I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking to gain more insight on the world of Harry Potter.

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87 people found this helpful

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buy a paper copy

this book is not a very good audio experience- art work and visuals are constantly referenced, and while they are well described, the lack of their experience really makes a negative impact on enjoyment.

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85 people found this helpful

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Didn't read the summary - fail on my part

I was expecting the story of magic in terms of the world of Harry Potter. Not the "magic" of how Harry Potter got published, how real life history helped shape the books, and basically a collection of interesting facts. I guess it could be said that the cover image is misleading in that it should had been obvious that people would jump to the same conclusion that I did.

Natalie Dormer has a magical voice and is very easy on the ears. Also, the guest speakers are mostly decent. I am not saying that the audiobook is bad. It just was not what I was expecting and if I had not pre-ordered it, then during the "sample" I would have listen to the truth.

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83 people found this helpful

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Unfortunately very boring, but great narration

If you can get past the first hours unbelievably boring rehash of the original books and how they were written, it gets better. If you are looking for a Harry Potter or Magical Creatures type story, you will be largely disappointed. This is the book version of the behind the scenes stuff on most movies that barely anyone watches.

The saving grace is the great narration from Ms. Dormer and the original narrators, the rest is unfortunate.

This seems like a sad money grab “behind the scenes” audiobook that is really just a boring historical description of a couple of museum events with historical artifacts, followed by a mixing of historical and magical anecdotes.

If you do like the director narration on movies, than this book will be great for you.

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67 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

I wanted the actual history of magic..

this is boring dry listening not even on par with quidditch through the ages or fantastic beasts and where to find them quite disappointed. it's like a documentary on the publishing history.

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65 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

An enjoyable making-of documentary of sorts

An enjoyable making-of documentary of sorts in the vein of the Lord of the Rings behind the scenes documentaries, but in audio form. Accompanying images of the historical objects often referenced would make for a more complete experience. This is not a in-universe Hogworts textbook. It includes insights from illustrators, voice actors, historians, etc into the making of the Harry Potter Universe as well as historical accounts of magic, science and medicine.

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62 people found this helpful

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Very disappointing

I've rarely been let down by a book as much as this one. It's not a Harry Potter Book (I didn't expect an HP fiction book, you'll see what I mean in my description), it's not even living within the Harry Potter world, it's an amalgam of academics and their studies trying, seemingly desperately to connect them to Harry Potter. They try their hardest to make connections and all too often they're taking a lot of effort into pounding a proverbial round peg into an academic square hole (pun intended). I consider myself a deep dive Harry Potter fan, who loves minutia, but this content is, I hate to say, mostly boring, even to me. To top off the indignation, whoever produced the audio portion did a terrible job in modulating the volumes. There are far too many times where an audible clear spoken voice gives way to an inaudible one so listening to this book in any environment other than a library is annoying in that large swaths of dialogue are missed due to drops in volume resulting in the need to "rewind" and raise the volume to hear what was missed, then of course stopping to lower it as the louder person starts to speak. Yes, some people speak less loudly and less clearly than others, but the volume portion can be compensated for by someone who cares to do so. I have listened to hundreds of audiobooks, and rarely do I consider asking for the Audible refund offer to be honored, I considered it for this one.

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39 people found this helpful