's First SpellbookTM
: Comes with its very own athame!
Spell books are books with various magic diagrams and incantations, presumably spells, written in them
. This is where the resident magic users
go when they need to get serious but the spell was just too darn long to memorize. They may also be magic artifacts themselves, imbued with arcane potency, and magic is cast by wielding the book rather than by reading what is written in it.
In Real Life
, the Spell Book
is called The Manual
and allows the user to cast "Tech Support" without use of reagents (although like its fictional counterpart, beware the person who thinks they're a wizard just because they read the book and are eager to try out the powerful incantations therein
.) In Sci Fi
, the Spell Book
may be called by a number of names, but reading Techno Babble
aloud from its sacred pages can produce limitless feats of technical wizardry
People who actually practice Witchcraft call these things grimoires
or Black Books. They are usually more like commonplace books with collections of incantations, calendars, diagrams, recipes, journal entries and notes on whether this or that spell worked.
Related to, but distinct from the Great Big Book of Everything
which is an infinite source of information. The Tome of Eldritch Lore
is also a spell book, but has added implications of doom!
. Some examples probably need to be moved over.
Older Than Dirt
, as the ancient Egyptians
thought magic could be performed by reading and performing specific incantations
, and used collections of written spells in various forms.
open/close all folders
- In the Marvel universe, there are at least two major spellbooks — The Book of the Vishanti, containing every light magic spell, and the Darkhold, its evil counterpart. Doctor Strange owns a copy of both.
- In Ancient Languages, some ancient books contain spells in the Sindarin language. One of these books brings Lyla to Rivendell in Middle-earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings. Because of limits, no one can use the spells except when the plot demands.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: Lucy goes inside a magician's house to find a Spell Book so she can make some invisible opponents visible. She's tempted to cast some of the spells for her own benefit (and does so once, to her regret).
- Spellbooks in Discworld are more places where spells live than books they're written in.
- This conception likely originates in Jack Vance's The Dying Earth.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell makes a distinction between books about magic and books of magic. The first are generally not written by magicians and are often little more than historical accounts with a magical focus, while the second actually tell you how to perform spells, and are much rarer. Not least because when magic was strongest, very few of its practitioners were interested in recording their knowledge. One plot point is that the titular Mr. Norrell is hoarding all of England's books of magic, in order that English magic can be rebuilt from the ground up, according to Norrell's theories of what magic should be.
- The Wizard's Manual from the Young Wizards series is a Spell Book and a Book Of Shadows. Being Great Big Book of Everything version of a Spell Book, it gives access to every spell ever developed.
- The manuals are more accurately described as access points to a wizardly database, and don't always take the form of books. Some wizards use technology such as laptops and Mp3 players, while others (particularly non-human animals) hear it as a disembodied voice or can access it directly as a form of expanded memory. Whatever the form, it tends to adapt its contents depending on its user's specialty and what they need to know. Nita's has a spell for keeping grass short on the page where Kit's shows a method for creating pocket dimensions. A senior wizard using the book format would have several volumes the size of phone books.
- In the Book of Acts, much of the city of Ephesus (in modern-day western Turkey) was converted to Christianity all at once, and, "Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:18,19 ESV)
- 50,000 pieces of silver is about equal to 140 years' labor wages, or over four million dollars today.
- Shows up in Harry Potter as school textbooks, but averted in that they are merely textbooks and don't allow you to cast spells any more than having a biology textbook allows you to do genetic engineering.
- Although Snape effectively turned his old copy of Advanced Potion-Making into more of an actual, useful grimoire.
- The Ildatch in The Wishsong of Shannara. Also a sentient, evil Artifact of Doom that corrupts anyone who uses it.
- In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Prince Rupert uses magical books to win the English Civil War for the Royalists. However, since they are Prospero's books, he must first find where Prospero drowned them and then bring them up from the seabottom. (In this book, Shakespeare is the Great Historian.)
- In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Quentin receives his knowledge from such a book. It is written in the language of dreams, and he can only read it while he sleeps.
- Patricia A. McKillip:
- In The Bell at Sealey Head, Ysabo's ritual includes turning one page in a blank book every day. When Ridley Dow appears, he shows her it filled with marvelous images, and says it is a magic book. It turns out to be the book into which Queen Hydria's court has been enchanted.
- In The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, Sybel steals these from lesser wizards in her quest to learn the true names of legendary creatures. Maelga warns her that she may one day steal from the wrong wizard, but she dismisses the notion. Until it's too late.
- In C. S. Goto's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Ravens trilogy Dawn of War, Ahriman reflects on how Magnus outdid the "False Emperor" and how he outdid Magnus — and how he keeps his own Prodigal Sons down, so no one would supplant him. In particular, there is no Book of Ahriman, as there as a Book of Magnus, because he stole it.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, Prospero did not drown his books. Even when he retired, he gave them to his children.
- H.P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon is often used as an example, and in his short story "The Dunwich Horror" Wilbur Whately needs a complete copy because his version is missing a key formula.
- In The Dresden Files, the Necronomicon once had real power, but the rituals' power loses effectiveness as the number of users increase. Publishing it widely has rendered everything in it entirely useless.
- In Rebecca Lickiss's Eccentric Circles, Larkingtower is very protective of his tomes.
- In Stephanie Burgis's A Most Improper Magick, their mother's books are a source of knowledge for both Kat and Angeline.
- The Gray Book from The Mortal Instruments is dedicated to the Angelic Runes used by Shadowhunters, and the Book of White with spells affecting life and death among other things. Shadowhunters and Warlocks are prone to collecting spell books, the former to keep them under lock and key, the latter in order to use them.
Live Action TV
- One of the more entertaining ones: In Deadlands, the Hucksters carry spellbooks... Hoyle's Book of Games. Turns out Hoyle left coded secrets of magic in the pages, and if you know the key (and are willing to accept the price), you can mimic his better tricks.
- Dungeons & Dragons is the modern Trope Codifier.
- The first three editions all require the Wizard class and its variants to use spellbooks along with the Vancian Magic system. Certain races, classes, and class variants have dispensed with this requirement, usually at the cost of a reduction in versatility. Generally, divine casters do not use spellbooks, with the exception of the Archivist from the Heroes of Horror supplement that does it instead of praying for spells.
- In the fourth edition, the Wizard class also has a spellbook, but anyone can learn to use rituals that are long enough to require being put in a book. Also the Cleric gets a spellbook automatically for rituals and the Swordsage can get a spellbook for spells like the Wizard with a feat.
- And, of course, Moral Guardians still insist that the instruction books themselves include actual directions for summoning demons and the like.
- In the Dark Sun setting, since magic (and literacy) are outlawed, Wizards' spellbook-equivalents are as diverse as pictogram-inscribed bones or knotted, beaded clusters of string.
- Mage: The Awakening features grimoires, books of information on the structure and development of rotes. Unlike most spell books, however, grimoires act more like hard drives for magical knowledge; the mage literally writes all the information out of his mind and into the grimoire, where it can then be picked up by whoever reads it. The mage can even relearn the spell invested into a grimoire from one he wrote himself (at the same cost it took to learn it in the first place), and having it on hand when he casts the spell makes it easier to do.
- The backs of Magic: The Gathering cards are meant to invoke the feel of that player holding a spell book. Coincidentally, in game mechanics refer to the player's deck as their library.
- There are also numerous artifact cards that represent supplementary spellbooks (like Jalum Tome, Jayemdae Tome, and of course, Spellbook), which work by giving the player faster access to spells (ie, drawing more cards per turn) or in the case of Spellbook, removing the limit on how many spells (cards) you can have access to (have in your hand) at once.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has an entire archetype based around spell books, giving various powers to "Spellcaster type" monsters.
- Tabletop Game/Warhammer is full to the brim with spellbooks of one sort or another. There are so many that Tzeentch, Chaos God of Change, under whose auspices magic falls, has created a pair of daemons - the Blue Scribes - to travel the multiverse copying them all out for him. Notable spellbooks include the Book of Hoeth (High Elves), the Nine Books of Nagash (Undead), the Book of Volans (Empire) and the Tome of Furion (Dark Elves).
- Ur-example from The Tempest:
'Prospero. [...] I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I'll drown my book.
- The Grimmerie in Wicked is a spell book, but if you don't have magical abilities PLUS the ability to actually read the book, it means nothing (Yes, it appears in the book too)
- A crucial component of The Spellcasting Series, as Ernie Eaglebeak can't cast a thing unless he's got his Spell Book in his hands. Any new spells he finds automatically transfer right onto the pages - unless you forgot to bring it, in which case, the spell flies off into space, and you get to look for the 'load save' button.
- In the Flash RPG DragonFable, one of the most powerful villains faced in early stages of the game's development had been Xan the Pyromancer, a fire-bending mage whose power had been amplified through his use of an artifact called the Pyronomicon. It was a powerful spellbook which focused the user's ability to manipulate fire.
- The Pyromancer Class gives the player a Pyronomicon of their own- a nod to fans of the Mad Pyromancer. It is stated to be a lesser, "second edition" version of the Pyronomicon.
- During the Christmas event following Xan's initial attempt to destroy Falconreach and defeat Warlic, he finds the "Eggnognomicon," which acts as an Ice-aligned version of the Pyronomicon. It melts when Xan is defeated, much to his dismay.
- In some iterations, Alice Margatroid from the Touhou series uses her grimoire to shoot or cast spells.
- Patchouli Knowledge does this as well in the fighting games, though she also throws it at her opponents.
- Byakuren Hijiri stores her spells in a scroll which is itself a spell, taking the form of multicoloured Hard Light symbols stretching between two rods. She can also make it recite spells by itself.
- In Fire Emblem, the Spell Books seem to be (or contain) consumables used to cast spells.
- The third Fire Emblem explained the tome thing as "The basis of Sorcery relies on sealing nature's hidden power into tomes and staves, and freely using those to harness great power." while the ninth and 10th involve short phrases (the only one given are "O light, gather. Open my path..." and "The light of life! Shine a ray upon my path and...strike my enemy!") in the ancient language.
- Henry and Miriel in Awakening briefly mention how only spells "based on this world's elemental forms" require tomes. Dark Mages can cast curses on their own, essentially replacing tomes with complex rituals. Not that you can replicate this in-game, of course.
- Final Fantasy Legend II has spell books that can be used for magic. In the game, the magically-gifted mutant/esper race can also use naturally-learned magic, but the draw is that spell books generally, A. Have more uses than a natural spell, B. Can be found/bought and replaced, C. Attack spells from books are usually stronger than natural spells, and D. Some spells are only found in spell books, like the powerful Fog and Prayer spells.
- The original Diablo has one of the less abstract uses of the spell book trope in video games. A spell book, when read, simply adds that spell to your repertoire so that you can use it as much as you want in future (as long as you have enough mana). If you find another book of the same spell at a higher level, reading it will let you cast a more advanced version of the same spell.
- Diablo II bypasses the use of spell books. There are single-use scrolls for certain universal spells (Identify and Town Portal), and if the scrolls take up too much room in your inventory you can store up to twenty of them in a book.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim uses a similar system to both Diablo examples. For the most part, new spells are learned by finding the spellbook (a "spell tome") or buying it from the appropriate vendor (the book is destroyed by using it but the player can then use the spell as much as they like if they have the mana to cast it). There are also one-time-use items called Scrolls that must be equipped in the hand like a weapon to be used; they cost no mana to use, but the player does not and cannot learn to cast the spell themselves by using a Scroll.
- Naturally, any Dungeons & Dragons-based game (see Tabletop Games above) will usually have a wizard using a spellbook.
- Castle of the Winds uses a method effectively identical to the original Diablo, except there are no levels for spells, though the cost of a spell can do down as one goes up in level.
- Apparently, human spellcasting classes—some of them, anyway—in the WarCraft 'verse have to use spellbooks. For example, in Reign of Chaos, the Archmage hero model carries a spellbook and staff. In The Frozen Throne, the Farseer Drek'Thar carries a spellbook—not his own, but pieced together from human mages killed during the First and Second War. He gives it to you as a reward for helping him out; it gives the wielder a bonus to mana, a brilliance aura (one of the Archmage's skills), and the ability to use Mass Teleport (the Archmage's "ultimate" spell).
- There is an (unused in the standard game) spell called Spell Book, which allows you to access several spells through it, bypassing the usual six-ability limit.
- There is also Medivh's spellbook, which contains great powers in and of itself, playing a central role in both Tides of Darkness and WarCraft III as an artifact desired by those that want to open portals into other worlds.
- In World of Warcraft, some spell-casting classes get tomes that are held in the off-hand. However, they stay shut and don't give you new spells. Instead, they passively provide stat bonuses that increase your existing spells' damage or healing.
- The upcoming Factor 5/Studio Ghibli DS collaboration, The Another World, will come with an actual "spell book" as a pack-in. The spell book will contain instructions on how to cast spells in the game world, as well as providing information on the game worlds themselves.
- In some Rogue-like variants a spell-caster must carry around spellbooks for all the spells they want to cast, which both takes up space in a limited inventory and also weighs down the not-physically-strong wizard (books are heavy). In Nethack and its variants, however, the player only needs to hold onto the spellbooks long enough to memorize the spell.
- In Tales of Phantasia, Arche learns her spells from various spellbooks.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics A2 Seers and Scholars learn their spells from Books. Of course, since everyone learns their skills from weapons, they can also smack people over the head with their books, too.
- Scholars return in Final Fantasy XI, and anytime a Stratagem is used, a large black or white tome will appear in midair, pages flying rapidly. In Final Fantasy XIV, three classes/jobs require a Book in your main hand.
- Nessiah's most treasured possession, the Revelation of the Gods, in Yggdra Union and Blaze Union. He's the only spellcaster to fight with a spellbook instead of a staff (which is plot-important, yes); he is also not above hitting people with it when charging into battle.
- Grimoire Weiss of Nier is an exceedingly arrogant, sentient spellbook that absorbs the blood of dead enemies and in return provides Black Magic. It's also responsible for most of the snarky one-liners of the game.
- Alexander of Daventry definitely knows his way around these - and uses them in both of his games.
- Leon's weapon of choice in Star Ocean: The Second Story, which summons armed spirits to do the melee attacking.
- There are a few in Kingdom of Loathing; some are offhand items that increase spell damage, others teach you new skills (and either go on your bookshelf or are consumed upon use).
- Bible Black from the game of the same name. Despite the fact that the spells are working, it's just an ordinary book, however.
- Charlotte from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin uses spellbooks for her default attack. While some (like the Encyclopaedia and Blank Book) are straight cases of Throw the Book at Them, others summon weapons or other entities to attack over short range.
- A couple of these turn up as Plot Coupons in the first Majesty game, enabling any hero that picks them up to cast a variety of low-level offensive and defensive spells that are normally only available to the Wizard.
- Chloe Heartzog equips these as weapons in Mana Khemia 2, and also reads them as a hobby. Her books can summon flying weapons from their pages, serve as a portal for The Legions of Hell, and perform a comprehensive Enemy Scan on monsters. By chewing on them.
- Most El Goonish Shive magic users, in spite of having power origins as widely varied as comic book superheroes, receive a spellbook that spontaneously adds pages to itself whenever they "level up" through a remarkably and regularly lampshadedly straight form of Stat Grinding.
- Inevitably, The Order of the Stick lampshades some of the counterintuitive oddities of D&D spellbooks.
- Sluggy Freelance has the "Book of E-ville" and the "Book of Gud", although the latter is more of a McGuffin than a real book of spells. The former, however, apparently contains numerous spells.
- Gargoyles, the Grimorum Arcanorum was very powerful and used several times by the mortal mages, including the recurring antagonist, Demona. The Archmage heavily sought it, and the Magus was rendered virtually powerless when he had to give it up to enter Avalon.
- Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has been known to look up powerful spells in books (like the "Glimmer Wings" spell in "Sonic Rainboom", or the spell in "The Best Night Ever" that lets her turn an apple into a coach).
- Subverted in Sonic SatAM. The wizard Lazaar had a computer of magic spells, but it is functionally identical beyond the user interface.
- UBOS (Ultimate Book of Spells) is a cartoon about a talking spellbook.
- In Ben 10, Charmcaster's spellbook is kept by Gwen after a body-switching incident. She keeps it and her skills at magic continue to increase throughout the series. The evil sorceror Hex (who is Charmcaster's boss and uncle, though Charmcaster has been a solo act of late) has a library full of them.