Back in 2000, when dynamic websites were reserved for IT professionals, the Harry Potter fandom started to flood the internet with a lot of different “pages”. You could easily find websites with news, forums and chats to discuss the latest theories – but there was a special fansite out there: The Harry Potter Lexicon. Created by Steve Vander Ark, it was the first online encyclopedia about J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Just to put things in perspective: Wikipedia was launched in 2001 – a year before, The Lexicon (as it is known in the fandom) came to existence (just a week after the release of Goblet of Fire, to be precise). Through the years, The Lexicon listed characters, places, creatures, spells, potions and more. With the years passing, similar websites appeared, but not even one became close to what The Lexicon is.
But what makes The Harry Potter Lexicon special? Why is it different to other online encyclopedias? Their strict sense of what is canon and what is not. You will find information only created by J.K. Rowling – it doesn’t care if it was used in the movies, if it is part of the books or just something she says in an interview. If it is comes from her, it is valid. If not, it is not part of the Wizarding World. And as someone who loves J.K. Rowling’s work, this is incredible and makes all the difference in the world.
If you do not think that is enough, then believe Rowling herself, who praised The Harry Potter Lexicon in 2004:
This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an internet café while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing). A website for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home.
(All the love Jo felt for the website vanished years later, when Steve wanted to publish a book version of The Harry Potter Lexicon and J.K. Rowling forbid it filing a lawsuit. A cut version was later published.)
The importance and work of The Lexicon is reflected in the fact that Steve Vander Ark was a consultant for Warner Bros. in the movies and videogames. His timeline of events was adopted by Warner Bros and was included in the Harry Potter films DVDs, and was accepted by J.K. Rowling too. How awesome is that?
The Lexicon kept growing, but it was never updated as it deserved. Now, after four years of working, a new version of The Harry Potter Lexicon is going live.
I had the privilege of being part of this, collaborating with the visual aspect of this new Harry Potter encyclopedia – and I can not express the wonderful work that everybody has done editing all the content. Reading and browsing through the discussions and comments from the team – it felt like being part of the group who knows the Harry Potter canon as nobody does.
I invite you (and now I talk as a fan and not as someone who collaborated with the project) to lose yourself in The Lexicon, reading and reading about the Harry Potter series, discovering new facts and remembering those details you forget after your first reading. If you already knew The Harry Potter Lexicon, I can assure you this is a new experience. And if you are new to The Lexicon, take a deep breath: this will be like to be immersed in a Pensieve full of Harry Potter canon. Enjoy it!