Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine

UCR Library presents pop-up exhibition about the historical roots of Harry Potter

The UCR Library will host the exhibition from Monday, May 15 to Saturday, June 23.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – The University of California, Riverside’s Library Special Collections’ will present the Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine exhibition at the Rivera Library from Monday, May 15 to Saturday, June 23.

This traveling exhibition was originally developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Curated by Elizabeth J. Bland in the National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine division, it explores Harry Potter’s world, its roots in Renaissance science, and the ethical questions that affected not only the wizards of Harry Potter, but also the historical thinkers featured in the series.

The exhibition will also feature 16th- to 19th-century illustrations from the UCR collection related to magic, witchcraft, herbal medicine, magical creatures, and “fantastic beasts.”  Included are some of the works that serve as sources for Harry Potter’s magical world of wonder and wizarding.

“These early illustrated printed materials are crucial in their ability to transmit a wide body of knowledge about science and medicine over a broad geographical expanse,” said Cherry Williams, the director of distinctive collections at UCR Library. “For example, one of the works on display will be Gerard’s Herbal, printed in London in 1597. It’s the first work to record and describe American plants, and it also includes early printed images and descriptions of deadly Nightshade and Mandrake, both of which figure prominently in the Potter novels.”

The Special Collections display will also include Ulisse Aldrovandi’s illustrated work on the history of dragons and serpents, printed in 1640 in Bologna, Italy.

In 1997, British author J. K. Rowling introduced the world to Harry Potter, and a literary phenomenon was born. Millions of readers have followed Harry to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he discovers his heritage, encounters new plants and animals, and perfects his magical abilities.

According to the National Library of Medicine’s website, “Although it is a fantasy story, the magic in the Harry Potter books is partially based on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science – including alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy, …Incorporating the work of several 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, the seven-part series examines important ethical topics such as the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice, and the responsibility that comes with power.”

Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine will be on the fourth floor of the Rivera Library – which is open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the pop-up exhibition, please visit the UCR Library’s Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine exhibition event website.

Media Contact


Tel: (951) 827-5893
E-mail: mojgan.sherkat@ucr.edu
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Cherry Williams
E-mail: cherry.williams@ucr.edu

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