What is the Harry Potter Lexicon?
Harry Potter fans have been visiting the Lexicon for almost 20 years to delve into the fascinating details of the Wizarding World that J.K. Rowling created. The site is an encyclopedia of every fact that Rowling has given us about her world. So how is it different from other sources online, such as the Harry Potter Wiki?
The Lexicon is designed to be used along with other sources, not in place of them. We think the Harry Potter Wiki is awesome, and we’re adding links to the Wiki pages on our own pages so that our users can check both websites. But there are some very important differences between the Lexicon and the HP Wiki which are important to keep in mind.
First of all, the Harry Potter Lexicon has always focused only on what Rowling herself created. That means that we don’t reference the films, the video games, or any other source of information. As a result, some fans read an entry on the Lexicon and email us that we’re missing facts, while in actuality these facts are not attributable to Rowling and therefore we leave them out intentionally. It also means that we don’t use images from other sources like the films. We do feature fan artwork on our pages, each of which shows a particular artist’s interpretation of the subject of the page, but these images are not canon.
Secondly, we want the Lexicon to be something of a research “home base” for Harry Potter fans. That’s why we’re adding links to other sources to our pages, so that a fan can start at the Lexicon to look up a topic, then follow the other links offered to the Harry Potter Wiki, the Harry Potter Companion, and other sites to get additional information.
Thirdly, we want the Lexicon to offer a kind of interconnectedness which a simple Wiki can’t provide. We add tags for concepts such as “anger” or “twelve” or “escape” which pull together a wide variety of entries from all over the site in interesting and unexpected ways. The editors are also creating curated lists of 12-15 entries on a topic called Remembralls. These are a great way for fans to discover entries that they might otherwise never think to explore. Almost every page includes a timeline of events at the bottom and a Related entries fact box to lead fans further and further into the richness of the Wizarding World.
Lastly, we’ve added a section to every page for commentary and other non-canon information. The editors are encouraged to add their own thoughts and to discuss fan theories or controversies. The commentary sections are clearly set apart from the rest of the page to remind users that the information is not canon. Harry Potter fans are some of the most creative, thoughtful, inquisitive, and insightful human beings on this planet and a site which hopes to be a “home base” for fan research on various topics should include a place for that creative thinking to be presented. Each page also includes a place for comments so that our users can add their thoughts and insights.
The Lexicon will never be finished. We’re constantly updating, editing, fixing, and correcting. The new site includes almost all the information from the original Lexicon. Most of the text from that site needs to be reformatted and updated for the new site. That’s an ongoing process, so please bear with us. We are a team of about 15 editors from all over the world which might seem like a lot but really isn’t, considering the vast amount of information we’re managing.
What about the future? Well, we have a lot of plans for the site, including adding a way for users to add their own personal tags to allow them to collect entries for their own reference. We’re constantly adding commentary and web links (and welcome suggestions from our users). The Lexicon was the first site to offer a comprehensive timeline of the Potter universe — Warner Bros even used the Lexicon’s timeline for their DVD extras on the original films — so we are constantly updating and adding to the timeline feature. We have some other ideas for improvements which we are sure fans will really love, but we’ll keep those to ourselves until they’re ready to show you.
One more note: For now, we’re also keeping ads off the site. If we can generate enough support through Patreon and the Amazon link on the support page, we’ll keep it that way. The Lexicon is currently being paid for out of pocket by a few people and we do need to make sure we can get those bills paid by revenue from the site itself in the near future. Please consider pledging a little to help out, even if it’s just a dollar a month, or using the Amazon link as your entrance into shopping on Amazon.
Thank you so much for being part of the Lexicon family. We are delighted to share this site with you to help you explore the magic of the Wizarding World!
About the artwork
Each piece of art on the Lexicon is the property of the artist. We only display this artwork with permission and do not own the copyrights. We cannot give anyone permission to use the artwork for other purposes. If you want to contact an artist for additional information or permission, click on the image and then click on the artist’s name. Their Guest Artist page will give you their website links and other contact information. Once again, please do not use artwork from the Lexicon without permission from the artist.
Statement of Editorial Policy
The Lexicon strives to publish only strictly canon information in its encyclopedia sections. The Lexicon is very specific in its list of canon sources.
If the Lexicon makes a mistake, we will admit the mistake immediately, take steps to retract the information, and offer an explanation and apology if necessary.
The Lexicon will not seek, encourage, or accept “leaked” information from anyone attempting to compromise the confidentiality of their position. If we have any reason to believe information was accidentally or dishonestly released, we will not publish it.
The Lexicon seeks to be accurate and current. The issue of spoilers is irrelevant to known accurate information. However, as noted above, we will not publish spoilers before the information is publicly available. For example, we did not post facts from “Cursed Child” until the script was published and everyone had a chance to learn the secrets the way Rowling wanted them revealed.
The Lexicon holds J.K. Rowling and her fans in the highest regard. Her respect is of the utmost importance to us, as is the trust of our readers. We will do everything in our power to earn and keep that respect.
Staff of the Harry Potter Lexicon
“I’ll want a pay rise, Dumbledore!”
– Horace Slughorn (HBP4)
“Twice nothing is still nothing!”
– Cyrano Jones, “The Trouble With Tribbles”
The Harry Potter Lexicon was written and edited by the following people:
Steve Vander Ark (SVA) is the creator, editor in chief, and webmaster. His email address is [email protected]. He started the Lexicon back in 1999 as a tiny little website with a few lists on it. He’s the one who created the graphics and most of the writing on the 700+ pages of the current Lexicon is his. Steve is also an freelance writer, a theatre teacher and director, a library media specialist, and a public speaker.
Nick Moline (NM) is the technical consultant for the Lexicon. Nick has been the know-how behind setting up the podcast, the storefront, the e-books, and other recent developments with the site. He and Steve are currently working to continually improve the new Lexicon website. Nick’s email is [email protected].
Paula Hall (PH) joined the staff at the end of 2005, taking over a backlog of essays from Penny and Steve. Since then she edited and published many new essays in our collection.
Lisa Bunker (LB) was a senior writer for the Lexicon and is now Senior Editor Emeritus. Lisa is a librarian, just like Steve, so they both speak reference-talk, which is a bit scary. Lisa edited the character pages specifically, but also acted as a web design consultant for the original Lexicon. Lisa is also the editor of Accio Quote, the most complete and amazing archive of Rowling interviews and related material on the web. Lisa’s blog is “Madam Pince’s Potter Pages.”
Jeanne Kimsey (JK) came on board in the spring of 2015 and is now Senior Editor, helping to manage the massive task of transfiguring the original Lexicon into its beautiful new format. Jeanne has been a friend and supporter of the Lexicon for many years and is a wonderful asset to the team.
A full list of editors, past and present, can be found on our Credits page.
Former staff members:
Kip Carter was the Commander in Chief of the Lexicon Forum. His amazing ability to work with both people and computers has allowed the Forum to grow into one of the best Harry Potter communities on the web.
Denise Proctor was Kip’s assistant. She’s as talented as Kip and as nice as anyone you could possibly hope to meet – unless you’re a troll on the forum, in which case she’s one of the most dangerous people you could possibly hope to meet. Denise and Kip are nothing short of incredible. The Lexicon is just so lucky to have people like this on staff.
Penny Linsenmayer handled email and project management.
Josh Santilli also served in the early years as an editor and assistant, working through lists of new canon and adding details all over the site.
Michele Worley (MLW) was a senior writer. She deserves a lot of the credit for the Lexicon being updated as quickly as it was after OP came out. Michele edited the magic pages and the Reader’s Guides, among other things.
Belinda Hobbs (BH) served as the editor for the jkrowling.com guide section of the Lexicon. Belinda’s enthusiasm and creativity made it the best guide to Jo’s site to be found anywhere. Bel also managed the Floo Network page and helped in numerous ways all over the Lexicon.
Josie Kearns came aboard just before the release of Half-Blood Prince to help manage the influx of new information that a new book brings.
Clint Hagen joined the staff in 2005 and coded the Remembrall, the Portkey, the Timelines, and the Knight Bus Tours.
Please take note of the following. None of us is JK Rowling or has any connection with her in any way, shape, or form. We don’t know how to contact her, so don’t bother asking. We do know that Jo visits the Lexicon on occasion to look up a fact, which delights us more than we can even express. However, we can’t get messages to her or pass along your emails. We are not associated with Warner Bros. or Scholastic or Bloomsbury or any of the other official Potter entities. We’re just fans; that’s all.
History of The Harry Potter Lexicon
The Harry Potter Lexicon began before I (Steve) even finished reading the first book. You see, I’ve always kept notes and drawn diagrams and made lists about things I enjoy. I have blueprints that I drew of the Death Star, painstakingly drawn in 1977. I have a huge chart of all the episodes of Hogan’s Heroes, listing everything from writers and directors to the gadgets that were used and when. I wrote notebook after notebook of detailed descriptions of Star Trek characters and technology. When I encounter a well-designed and imagined world in movies, television, or books, I find it almost impossible not to catalog it.
Like I said, when I read the first Harry Potter book, the Lexicon began. I started cataloging it in my head, noticing details, scribbling down the page numbers where I could find the names of various books, and so on. I started scribbling maps of the castle. But I fought it. Cataloging something as thoroughly as I tend to do is HARD WORK. It takes a lot of time. It tends to take over my free time … and it’s also pretty much a thankless task, since no matter how carefully and expertly I do the work, no one ever sees and appreciates it.
This time it was different, though. This time there was the Internet. This time I could share all this work with a few other people. And the Harry Potter universe was just so exciting and fun and detailed and wonderful. But still I resisted. And then I read book two (and I remembered having some pretty strong doubts about book two, which looked as if it might have a flying car in it, which just didn’t fit the world that I was imagining). I wavered. Just reading through the description of the Weasley house made me want to start writing. Book three didn’t help a bit. I knew that I was getting hooked. I started my first notebook with notes from Chamber of Secrets. I really can’t remember why I started with the second book and not the first, but I did. And before you know it, I was moving on the book three. I filled page after page.
These notebooks are written in the order of the story, one chapter at a time. I automatically categorize everything as I go, so when I write down a magic spell or effect, I write “sp” in the margin. Everything gets a little scribble of some kind in the margin. I worked through three, and then went back for book one. I started cataloging information on a private website.
Over the next half a year, two key events happened. I joined Harry Potter for Grown Ups and Goblet of Fire came out.
And then the Lexicon came into official existence a week later, in July of 2000.
At first it was just a series of lists. Lists of books, lists of Wizard Cards, lists of Death Eaters, and so on. I was trying to think up a good name for the site and settled on Lexicon because Encyclopedia was taken (by the now defunct Encyclopedia Potterica). “Lexicon” refers to a list of words, and at first, that’s what this was. I can remember sitting on my back porch and running the name Harry Potter Lexicon over in my head and thinking that it sounded okay. I still think it sounds okay, although the Lexicon itself has grown way past being just a list of words.
In November, 2000 the Lexicon appeared for the first time on Yahoo (which was how we searched the web back then), and within a week was chosen as a featured site in USA Today. The image here shows how the original Lexicon page was laid out. It was fixed at 600 pixels wide, which was just right for the VGA monitors of that time. It was all text so that it could load quickly even with 1200-baud dial-up.
Of course, once I started it was impossible to stop. I’m a librarian, and I could imagine what the perfect reference source would look like. Once I could picture it and knew I could do it, I just had to make it happen. So I turned the list of spells into the Spell Encyclopedia and added the Bestiary and the Atlas. That was in the spring of 2001. Since then the Lexicon has grown until it encompasses nearly all factual information from canon sources, organized and crosslinked. The Lexicon Forum was added to provide an opportunity for Harry Potter fans of all ages to discuss their favorite books. Kip Carter did a masterful job of managing the forum, and that wasn’t always an easy job.
Another exciting development for the Lexicon was the creation of The Floo Network. Several of the best Harry Potter websites in the world joined forces. Through a shared toolbar, each site linked itself to the others to provide for fans the world’s most complete and amazing set of tools for exploring the Harry Potter universe. The Floo Network is no longer in existence, sadly, but the websites involved are still going strong. The current Lexicon still references them whenever possible.
The next major milestone for the Lexicon was the release of Order of the Phoenix in June 2003. On that exciting weekend, the Lexicon was featured in a variety of places in the media–radio, television, magazines, and newspapers–and I was even interviewed on the Today Show. In mid-August, I brought Michele Worley on board as the first ever assistant editor, and since then the huge job of incorporating the new information from Order of the Phoenix and other books moved ahead very quickly.
The Lexicon has been mentioned on the websites of both Scholastic and Bloomsbury. Warner Bros. has given its permission for the Lexicon to use the graphics drawn by Mary GrandPré for the books. The Lexicon is one of the most-often referenced Harry Potter website on the web. It’s considered by fans to be the most complete and authoritative reference to the Harry Potter universe in existence and is visited by many thousands of fans daily from all over the planet. That’s really cool. I love the Internet.
At the end of June, 2004, Jo Rowling paid the Lexicon a high honor indeed. She gave the Lexicon her Fan Site Award. The traffic on the Lexicon grew by quite a bit and several new staff members were added to help out. Penny Linsenmayer came on board to handle email and oversee projects. Josh Santilli became the new editor, working closely with Steve to work through all the pages and find the typos, errors, omissions and to create new material. Lisa Bunker, who already was working on the Madam Scoops’ website (now Accio Quote), took over as editor of the character pages.
The Lexicon continued to grow, although after all seven books ere out the flow of new information slowed to a trickle. Most of the editorial staff moved on to other projects. Steve maintained the site and updated as he could.
By this time the Lexicon was starting to show its age. It had been created back when websites were built with individual HTML pages, connected with links. The result for the Lexicon was a maze of almost a thousand pages, connected by hundreds of individual links, often duplicating information. One editor described it as “boxes within boxes.” Editing was, well, an adventure. The only person who could edit effectively was Steve, who had the whole site in his head. Everyone else was pretty much lost. So a decision had to be made: let the Lexicon slide, getting less and less accurate and relevant, or update the site to modern standards — which seemed like an almost insurmountable task.
Nick Moline convinced Steve that the Lexicon could be updated. He and Steve met numerous times, sometimes for entire days of discussion, working out just how this could be accomplished. With Nick’s expertise as a Senior Software Engineer at Justia.com, they worked out a plan to upgrade the site in 2013. Over the next two years, a whole new staff of editors came on board to make the dream a reality. Patricio Tarantino volunteered to design the new site. Jeanne Kimsey was the first to try the new editing system and helped Steve fine-tune the process. As new editors were brought in, Jeanne became a Senior Editor to help manage the massive job.
The new Lexicon is shining example of the knowledge and deep understanding that fans have for the Harry Potter universe. The site is no longer the work of just a few passionate fans. It is now a showcase of the brilliance of many fans from all over the world who bring their wisdom and perspective to the site. Fans edit and write commentary. They submit essays and artwork. They critique and make improvements.
And together we all welcome you to this amazing website: The Harry Potter Lexicon.