Muggle Books of Magic and Wizardry: From Hogwarts to the Folger

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In the late 19th and early 20th century, Henry Clay Folger held a significant amount of stock in Standard Oil of New York that would later aid in his ability to collect work related to Shakespeare, including the First Folios. Since then, the Folger Shakespeare Library has gone on to amass one of the largest collections of Shakespeareana in the world. But not all items in the collection relate to Shakespeare. There are hundreds of topics, including royalty, science, philosophy, history, geography, and theatre. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find books containing information about magic, healing potions, witchcraft and wizardry.

Is it possible Henry was given some items from a secret representative of Hogwarts? Did this person cloak these items in magic so you, the researcher, would never know? Look through the display, pulled from the depths of the vault, and determine for yourself if there truly is magic in the Folger collection.

Items Included


The Harry Potter films were shot in various locations around England and Scotland. The first group of books show an old print of Alnwick Castle, located in Northumberland, England. Alnwick is currently home to the Percy family, who have held it since the 14th century. The look of Hogwarts is based on bits of Alnwick’s exterior and served as the location for some scenes in the Harry Potter films. The third book discusses Gloucester Cathedral, and while it was not one of the settings for Harry Potter, the architecture reminds us of some of the inner halls of Hogwarts.

1a) William Davison. A Descriptive and historical view of Alnwick, etc. Alnwick: 1822. DA690 .A4 D4 1822 Cage [1]

1b) J. Cary. Cary’s new map of England and Wales, with part of Scotland, etc. London: 1794. G1854 .C2 Cage [2]

1c) J. Taylor. The history and antiquities of the abbey and cathedral church of Gloucester, etc. London: 1829. Folio NA5461 .B8 v.5 Cage [3]


Edward Topsell’s Historie of Four-Footed Beasts and The Historie of Serpents contains a depiction of each representations of the four houses in Hogwarts: the lion for Gryffindor, the badger to represent Hufflepuff, the serpent for Slytherin, and a raven for Ravenclaw. What house do you belong to?

2a-b) Edward Topsell. The historie of foure-footed beastes, etc. London: 1607. STC 24123 Copy 2 (Gryffindor and Hufflepuff) [4]

2c) Edward Topsell. The historie of serpents. Or, The second booke of liuing creatures, etc. London: 1608. STC 24124 Copy 2 (Slytherin) [5]

2d) Samuel Rowlands. The night-rauen. London: 1620. STC 21402 (Ravenclaw) [6]


Among the multitude of classes students take at Hogwarts, you can take: Divination, Herbology, or Defense Against the Dark Arts. In the books you see here, people in England used different methods to discover their futures, understand the night sky and its secrets, and herbals, which helped cure illnesses. Notice the information on the first page in Book 1 of the Occult physic: “The hoof a of a unicorn…” Unicorns are important creatures in Harry Potter, containing magical potent properties, including mortality if you drink their blood.

3a) William Williams. Occult physic, or The three principles in nature… etc. London: 1660. Wing W2784.2 [7]

3b) Unknown author. Anthology of essays on astrology, palmistry, medicine, etc. ca. 1700. W.a.341 [8]

3c) Petrus Apianus. Cosmographia. 1550. G6 .A7 1550 Cage

3d) Johannes von Cuba. Ortus sanitatis. Strasbourg: 1517. 245-100f (Mandrakes!)[9]

3e) Johannes Indagine. Chiromantia. London: 1558. STC 14075 [10]

Symbols, Characters, Creatures

The items you see here represent symbols, characters, and creatures you may read about in the books or see in the Harry Potter films.

4a) Unknown author. Prouerbia Salomonis (Bible, Old Testament). France: 1542. 180-530q (Notice the printer’s mark looks like a phoenix carrying a book and a golden snitch.) [11]

4b) L.W. A nice cut for the demolisher. London: 1715. 134-642.2q (Bezoars!) [12]

4c) George Wither. A collection of emblems, ancient and modern. London: 1635. STC 25900b [13]

4d) Janos Zsamboki. Emblemata. Antwerp: 1564. PN6349 .S2 1564 Cage (Could it be a symbol of the Death Eaters?) [14]

4e) Nicholas Flammel. Nicholas Flammel…concerning both the theoricke and the practice of the philosophers stone, etc. London: 1624. STC 11027 (Suggestions on how to create the philosopher’s stone!) [15]

4f) Marten D. The arraignment of the whole creature att the barre of religion… London?: 1632. ART File A773 no.1 (xs) (Could this be Dumbledore and his dear phoenix Fawkes?) [16]

4g) Ludwig Lavater. Of ghostes and spirites walking by nyght…etc. London: 1572. STC 15320 c.1 (This one reminds us of each ghost in the houses of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff.) [17]

4h) Unknown author. Alcuin. ca. 1531. BV4240 .H5 Cage folio (The great Basilisk!)[18]

“Magical” Objects

The objects here are items one used on a daily basis. Others are costume pieces used in theatrical performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Four of the items here represent the pieces owned by the founders of each house at Hogwarts: The Sword of Gryffindor, the golden cup of Helga Hufflepuff, the diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin’s locket. The coins resemble the wizarding world’s coinage and it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think of a Death Eater wearing the ring.

5a) Sword with blue jewels. ca. 19th or 20th century. 2-7-17-2 Sot. Costumes

5b) Gold Gobblet made of brass. ca. 19th or 20th century. ART Inv. 1062

5c) Gilt Coronet. ca. 19th or 20th century. 2-10-16-212 Sot./Marlowe Costumes

5d) Wooden Pendant. ca. 19th century. Wood no. 5c

5e) Wooden Cup. ca. 19th century. Wood no. 2 realia (We own our own Goblet of Fire!)

5f-i) Elizabeth I Gold Pound. 1594-96. Env. 100

Elizabeth I Gold Angel. 1582-1584. Env. 101

Elizabeth I Gold Half Crown. 1602. Env. 102

Henry VIII Gold Crown of the Double Rose. 1526-1533. Env. 203 (The coins look quite similar to golden galleons!)

5j) Death’s Head Ring in gold. n.d. Shakespearian Reliques no. 113

Acknowledgments: Thank you to William Davis for pointing out “Prouerbia Salomonis,” Rachel Dankert for editing this little booklet, my fellow colleagues Shanta Bryant and Kristen Sieck for their patience with the constant requests, and to everyone who showed great enthusiasm and support.

Thank you for coming to this special Halloween Pop-Up. Happy Halloween!