Twenty-one years ago, I created a small website to collect and organize information about the Harry Potter novels. I was part of an online discussion group called Harry Potter for Grown Ups, which is just what it sounds like, and we all needed a quick way to find details from the books as we discussed the clues and hints that we found as we read the novels. I wanted to call this website The Harry Potter Encyclopedia, but at the time there was already a website called The Encyclopedia Potterica, so I had to come up with something else. Since at that time the site was essentially just a list of the cool names of things in the books, I decided to call it The Harry Potter Lexicon. The first version went online in 1999, but I didn’t really share it with anyone outside of some folks in the Harry Potter for Grownups group. When I was ready for other fans to see it, I made it public in July of 2000.
Over the next two decades, the Lexicon changed and grew a lot. There have been four versions of the site over the years. The original version was completely created with text. Any design elements came from using different text colors and sizes. Since everyone was on slow dial-up at the time, it was important that the site would load fast. I wanted users to be able to follow links and smoothly move from one page to another. There was no artwork at all.
That “text only” idea didn’t last long. Within a few months of starting the site, I contacted Warner Bros and got permission to use the chapter artwork from the books on the Lexicon — yes, at that point Warner Bros was the gatekeeper on all visualizations of the Potter novels. That was a bit of a turning point because it marked the first appearance of artwork on the site. At that point I redesigned the Lexicon to include that artwork as well as created headers and things to dress up the pages. The overall look of the home page was that of a bunch of Diagon Alley signboards. I also created the Bestiary and the Atlas and started creating maps and charts.
As internet speeds increased, the site began to include more artwork. We started to feature the work of some prolific Potter artists of that time. And the site became very popular. It was, and still is, considered to be the best reference to the world Rowling was creating in the books. Scholastic and Warner Bros used it as their reference while editing the books and creating the films. Rowling herself said she occasionally looked up facts on the Lexicon while in the process of writing.
The Lexicon underwent another revision in 2007, with all the content being completely reorganized and new navigation being put in place. The redesign was the work of Lisa Bunker, who created the amazing Accio Quote website and also wrote most of our original character descriptions.
Just a few years ago, the entire site was once again redesigned, this time to take advantage of technology which hadn’t been available back in 1999 when the site started. All the content was painstakingly copied over from a lot of static HTML pages into a modern content management system, created and programmed by Nick Moline, and displayed with a new, exciting page design created by Patrico Tarantino. That’s the Lexicon site you see today.
The Lexicon has been the gold standard reference for Wizarding World canon facts for twenty years now. And to celebrate our 20th anniversary in a very “Lexicony” way, starting in July we’re going to hold a Celebration of Canon. Every week we’ll focus on part of one of the novels highlighting artwork, essays, podcasts, and more from our collection. Fans can explore that part of the Harry Potter canon with us. We hope you’ll learn details you never knew, discover artwork by some amazingly talented fan artists, and enjoy reading essays written by fans back when the books were still coming out, when we didn’t know what was going to come next. And we really hope you use the comments to give your own thoughts and insights.
The Lexicon is twenty years old. The staff, as always, consists of a band of passionate fans who still get a thrill out of writing and researching about the Wizarding World created by Rowling. No one gets paid for this — in fact, all the costs of running the site are paid for out of our own pockets. If you want to support the Lexicon, there are very painless ways to do this. Click on the Lexicon logo in the upper left of every page and go to “support.”
And watch this blog. The collection for the first five chapters of Philosopher’s Stone will go live on Sunday, July 5. From then on through the end of the year, a different section of the canon will be featured every Sunday.
We love hearing from fans about how they’ve enjoyed the site and how they get lost exploring canon for hours. We’re proud of what we’ve done over the past two decades and promise to keep writing, researching, and curating the best Wizarding World canon resource ever.
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In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.
Special thanks go to Felicia Cano who gave us permission to use her amazing artwork of Hermione reading a book for the logo, which was created by Kim B.
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License