The hypothetical Harry Potter Encyclopedia has been haunting the fandom for well over a decade.
Imagine it: A beautiful Harry Potter Encyclopedia by J.K. Rowling that includes everything you could ever possibly want to know about Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. The characters, the potions, the spells, the places, the family trees, the creatures, the schools, and boatloads of never-before-seen information that J.K. Rowling has always had in her head or written on napkins. It could incorporate everything from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stories, and be the go-to resource for all fans.
A story as deep as Harry Potter deserves an Encyclopedia. J.K. Rowling herself knows this — in fact, over the past two decades she acknowledged on multiple occasions that an Encyclopedia was in the works. Here, we look at her words over the years and how Pottermore may’ve changed her position.
Rowling’s comments on a Harry Potter Encyclopedia
In a 2007 interview with PotterCast, Rowling said that she planned on publishing an Encyclopedia but she needed some time. “Would it be okay if that’s ten years [from now]?” Rowling jokingly asked the hosts. “No, listen, I absolutely intend to do it, but I can’t pretend that I’m in a hurry right now. It’s gonna be a hell of a lot of work. But I have — I’ve kept everything and I know where things are and yeah, at some point I will get myself together and do it.”
The author was adamant about it being a 100% complete resource, and was “delighted” when the hosts told her fans would be willing to wait 10 years. “The point of doing it, if I’m going to do it, it’s about doing the absolute definitive, giving-people-everything guide,” she said. “There’s no point in me doing it unless it’s amazing. And I think there’s no point in writing it unless it is everything, and the last thing that I want to do is to feel that I have to rush something out.”
She doubled down on her interest a couple weeks later on her website, when she said the “Encyclopaedia of Potterworld” was “as-yet-unpublished,” implying one day that it could be.
In 2008, during her trial against The Harry Potter Lexicon’s own published encyclopedia, Rowling said she “recently started work on her own encyclopedia but does not expect to complete it for two to three years because she wants to do it right,” according to the Washington Post.
Four years later, the same year Pottermore launched, Rowling revealed on her personal website that she was actively working on the book. “For a long time I have been promising an encyclopaedia of Harry’s world, and I have started work on this now – some of it forms the new content in Pottermore,” she wrote on her website. “It is likely to be a time-consuming job, but when finished I shall donate all royalties to charity.”
Once this remark was noticed by the media, the statement was changed to say Rowling had no “firm plans” to publish a physical Encyclopedia, and that any new material she was writing would be going to Pottermore.
But the original statement strongly suggested that a physical Encyclopedia was in the works. Just “some” of what she was writing was going “in Pottermore,” and she was referring to a project that would benefit a charity. Pottermore does not benefit charity.
The reason for the change in statement is still a mystery. My guess is that Pottermore didn’t like Rowling teasing an Encyclopedia. At the time, the newly-launched website was trying to get fans hooked on Pottermore being “the” destination for fans. If J.K. Rowling is saying an Encyclopedia is in development, it kinda kills the excitement around Pottermore.
Rowling’s people may’ve also decided that it was too early to announce an Encyclopedia, or Rowling had a change of heart in teasing the project.
The author has not said a word about the hypothetical Harry Potter Encyclopedia since that blog post. She has also not uttered the word once on her ever-so-busy Twitter account.
Hypable recently reached out to Rowling’s representatives for comment. They told us there “are no plans to publish a Harry Potter encyclopedia.”
Is Pottermore the Encyclopedia?
Fans may have to accept that Pottermore is the only Encyclopedia we’re getting. If the site never came into existence, I believe we would’ve had a physical book by now.
On the other hand, with so many Potter spinoffs in print (the excellent Illustrated Series and the updated Fantastic Beasts book are the most recent examples), it seems like Team Rowling and her publishers can’t avoid the Encyclopedia forever. There’s no doubt that it would be a huge money maker (For charity!). Her publishers and fans would love love love to see an Encyclopedia.
Pottermore is in a place now where it could co-exist with an Encyclopedia. A physical book cannot assign you a Hogwarts House, Ilvermorny House, or a Patronus. It cannot break new news about future Fantastic Beasts movies. It would not give us BuzzFeed-type articles.
Maybe Rowling’s time spent writing the Fantastic Beasts film series will inspire her to finally finish that Encyclopedia. It’d sure be a great way to win over all her longtime fans!