MuggleNet ExclusiveBritish Library Special Report
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British Library Exhibit Recap
As a Potter fan, upon hearing that the manuscript for Philosopher’s Stone was on display in the British library (a convenient ten-minute walk from my dorm), I promptly made my way there first thing this afternoon. The exhibition cost £5, and was surprisingly empty. The exhibition itself is called “Writing Britain,” about depictions of Britain in British literature, with Harry Potter representing King’s Cross in London.
The exhibition on Philosopher’s Stone consists of a paperback of the book “kindly lent by the author,” two written pages from the manuscript, and a blurb talking about how Harry leaves Little Whinging via King’s Cross. The two pages are both from Chapter 6, “The Journey from Platform Nine and Three Quarters.”
The first page is the first page of the chapter, written in light blue ink with lots of crossings out, and some hearts doodled in corners. The second page (above) is in black ink, the scene where Harry observes the Weasleys on the station. There are almost no edits of this scene, it’s almost exactly as it is in the book. But there were some interesting things to glean from the first page.
First thing to notice is different names. Apparently, Dudley was originally called “Didsbury”!! Certainly not a name I can picture him with; it sounds so posh. Maybe that’s why Aunt Petunia still calls him “Diddy.” Instead of “Didsbury,” which occurs twice on the page, we got “Dudley,” a historic English surname from Tudor times.
More interesting is that Harry’s faithful owl Hedwig was originally called “Kallicrater,” if I can make out the writing correctly (difficult because it was all crossed out). And Jo originally had the owl’s name just “come” to Harry out of the blue. Don’t know if that is the first name that would occur to him, which may be why the owl was later renamed “Hedwig” and Harry drew inspiration from his history textbook.
The next passage, all crossed out, references Harry’s familiar habit of putting up a calendar and counting down the days until he goes to Hogwarts. This makes a reappearance in the next few books, but was excluded from Philosopher’s Stone if memory serves me right.
Another small change is that in this draft, apparently the academic year starts nine days earlier. Harry approached Vernon on the eve of his journey via Hogwarts Express, and the date is given as “August twenty-first,” which would mean the journey itself would be August 22nd – and as we all know, the journey is always on September 1st in the books (which is seemingly always a Sunday – like magic!).
The remainder of the page is as we see it in the book, with only the occasional swaps between pronouns and names.
Jo Rowling is in some good company in this exhibition, because also on display are wonderful authors like Emily Bronte and Charles Dickens, and classic works like Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Holmes, Sweeney Todd, Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and even song lyrics by John Lennon. I’ll work on uploading pictures of those soon. And there were plenty of authors and poets I wasn’t familiar with.
Even skipping over some of the authors I have no interest in – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, JRR Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and Shakespeare – I spent a good hour in the exhibition, and would definitely recommend it to any Potter fans in London.
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