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Study for Your O.W.Ls With Library's Harry Potter-Themed Online Collection

By Shaye Weaver | June 26, 2017 6:18pm
 The owl by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner looks a lot like Harry's owl, Hedwig.
The owl by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner looks a lot like Harry's owl, Hedwig.
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The New York Academy of Medicine Library

School might be out for the summer, but Harry Potter fans can still study for their O.W.L.s in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the publication of J.K. Rowling's first book in the blockbuster series.

East Harlem's New York Academy of Medicine, which includes a Hogwarts-esque library of 33,000 rare books dating back to the 15th century, has leafed through its collection to find texts describing creatures seen in the "Harry Potter" books. They include the elusive dragon, magical unicorns, infamous mandrakes and plants used for medicinal (and magical) purposes.

In honor of the anniversary, the library has released an online digital collection of "How to Pass Your O.W.L.s at Hogwarts: A Prep Course."

The collection is divided up into seven subjects — "The Care of Magical Creatures," "Defense Against the Dark Arts," "Divination," "Herbology," "History of Magic," "Potions" and "Transfiguration" — which would be part of the Ordinary Wizarding Levels (O.W.L.s) examination at the end of each student's fifth year.

Credit: The New York Academy of Medicine Library

In the "Care of Magical Creatures," section, Harry Potter fans and bibliophiles can pull up illustrations and read about the origins of owls, a three-headed dog, a basilisk and mermen, among others.

For example, the three-headed dog is based on Greek mythology and found in Athanasius Kircher's book from 1650. In it, Orpheus plays music to the hellhound Cerberus to get passage to the underworld. 

Credit: The New York Academy of Medicine Library

"Divination" students can find out which body part corresponds to which astrological sign or planet. (Like at Hogwarts, Saturn is tied to a "diminutive stature.")

Credit: The New York Academy of Medicine Library

Several hand-colored plant prints, including a white lily, can be inspected up close in the "herbology" and "potions" sections.

Credit: The New York Academy of Medicine Library

Online visitors can also gander at the library's bezoar, a large hair ball from the stomach of a cow found in 1862. Bezoars were thought to have magical properties in the Wizarding World and were a key ingredient in the Potter universe's "Antidote to Common Poisons."

For these looking to feel transported to Hogwarts, they can also take a 360-degree virtual tour of the dark-wooded library, complete with ladders, leather-bound books and small lamps.

Anne Garner, the library's curator of rare books and manuscripts, put the collection together after realizing there was so much material to work with when organizing a children's tour.

"People have said that this library is what Hogwarts must look like," she said earlier this month. "I've been here about three years and I've done classes on alchemy and books of secrets, so I knew certain books would be interesting and figured out what the classes would be and fit them in."

For those looking to visit in person, they'll have to wait. The library, which is located at Fifth Avenue and East 103rd Street, will offer tours in the near future, Garner said.