Fictional Library for the Fantasy Genre
Libraries are one of those staples of a certain type of fantasy and horror fiction writing. Hidden away in the musty tomes and scrolls some vital, but forgotten piece of lore waits to be found. Or perhaps somewhere among the shelves, lays a wealth of esoteric knowledge or rituals that can turn the tide for the heroes of our stories.
Sadly, I know I’ve run plenty of adventures in my favorite roleplaying games and simply had to say something like “you find the wizard’s library” before cutting to the chase of what spells and story-specific text prop the players found. So I thought I’d create a running list of non-existent books for fantasy settings; as much for resources and for a personal creative exercise. I’ll try to keep them generic enough for use in most fantasy settings, but you may see some personal favorite references creep in from time to time. 🙂
Arts & RecreationHistory & GeographyLanguage & LiteratureMetaphysics & ReligionPhilosophy & SocialScience & TechnologyMiscellaneous
Analysis of Goblinoid Textile Patterns & Techniques
Description: Bound in a leather cover scored and textured so as to resembled woven cloth, this surprisingly large work is resplendent with clear and practical illustrations. Small goblin caricatures appear occasionally to highlight notations and footnotes.
Summary: This work appears to be the first-hand research of a human who spent extensive time among goblins, presumably with some sort of magical or extraordinary powers of disguise. Though primarily in the common language used by humans, it contains copious goblinoid phrases and terms. The author details numerous aspects of the practical and artistic aspects of goblinoid textiles.
The Black Book of Sunless Cuisine
Description: This medium sized work has an unadorned cover of an unknown wood-like substance. Recessed pieces of hinged metal can be folded out of the covers to serve as a built in book stand. The script is confident and lettered in a black ink that has a slight metallic luster. It is easily readable even under poor light and retains a slight luminescence long after exposure to light.
Summary: The work documents the cooking, cuisine and dining culture of the subterranean world. In addition to numerous recipes, it addresses techniques of the culinary arts beneath the surface world. Two entire sections are dedicated to the acquisition of particularly challenging ingredients, and to comparing & contrasting the cuisine of various races and cultures dwelling underground. The later displays some slight preferences, presumably an indication of the unnamed author's origins?
Crossed Cutlasses & Wicked Waves
Description: This book is substandard in almost every respect, from its flimsy pasteboard cover to its pulpy pages. A badly faded illustration on the cover is its only embellishment and even this is so worn as to only suggest the hint of a female form with tousled hair leaning suggestively over a young gallant.
Summary: The work purports to be the confessional of a high ranking lady who spurned her arranged marriage, taking to the sea and a life of piracy instead. In a decidedly dramatic narrative, she documents her rise to command a pirate ship and her diverse array of conquests, both criminal and romantic.
Marlowe's Treasury Comedic
Description: This work is heavily worn and riddled with signs of neglect... It's spine is broken from aggressive and frequent folding and flexing, with frayed strings hanging from the binding. The pages smell of stale beer and have suffered numerous food stains. The cover title is barely visible, its gilt inlay worn almost entirely away.
Summary: This works is a collection of antique comedy plays, several centuries out of date. The topics and particularly the word play are not particularly accessible to most modern audiences, but the work does include all the stage instruction and direction to perform the plays, if a cast were so inclined. Someone has added copious notes, comments and strikethroughs in attempt to re-write the works in a contemporary form. Many of these "improvements" are obviously pointed at recognizable modern figures and organizations.
A Martial Course of Grubs de Guerra
Description: This small battered book has numerous stains and heavy wear on its cover of thick, coarse leather. It's interior pages show the signs of frequent reading and rough handling. It contains a surprising number of illustrations and the last few dozen pages are filled with a messy handwritten script that appears to record various odd names and statistics.
Summary: This book is a comprehensive guide for the breeding, rearing, training and care of "fighting grubs". Typically a lower class pursuit, grub fighting employs the larvae of a beetle species that possesses unusually strong jaws for their small size and an aggressive nature. The previous owner seems to have recorded his or her various "fighters" and their wins and losses in the ledger in the back of the book.
The Ten Great Tragedies of Misrith Theater
Description: The front cover of this work is made of heavily layered scraps of dark lacework, arranged in such a way to suggest spider webs. The interior edges of many of the pages feature skeletons in various dancing poses still commonly practiced in courts today.
Summary: The complete lines and stage direction of ten tragedy plays along with a curiously specific diagrams that the author insists is the optimal seating arrangement of attendees for "the imparting of pathos most intense".
Valkenjacht: From Fledgling to Mastery
Description: This tome bears all the hallmarks of a older work; the binding style, lettering and layout suggest it was created at least a century ago. Despite this, it is in surprisingly good condition. A set of thin metal bookmarks crafted in the form of flight feathers accompany it, allowing the user to mark pages as well as specific sections.
Summary: While painfully comprehensive, this work is written with such a deep passion for the art of falconry that it is hard not to become engaged. Everything an aspirant could desire is covered; not just acquisition, rearing and training of hunting raptors, but the fabrication and maintenance of all the necessary gear, breeding, history and an expansion section about the various species. While it lacks woodblock printing or illuminated paintings, copious hand-drawn sketches that are both precise and beautiful appear throughout the work.
Avulsion and Alluvial Fanning of the Greater Ollent River
Description: This over-sized book features an oilskin cover and pages with a slightly waxy feel to them. Any amount of handling results in small amounts of extremely fine dust (dried silt) being released. No author is noted on the cover, spine or within and the title appears embossed in a clean design with a slightly curving an undulating flourish.
Summary: Bound within are numerous maps drawn in a meticulous hand. Each is dated and annotated with details regarding the slowly shifting and meandering course of the Ollent River over the centuries. Particular attention is given to the region between the city of Chardedum and the river's delta where it meets the sea. Although the contents cover a large expanse of time, the scope, script and tone of the writing never changes, as if it was collected from very consistent sources or was documented by a single researcher.
The Burning of Estkeld and the Someren Diaspora
Description: Covered in a sturdy slate gray leather and embossed with a procession of distraught people carrying meager possessions on their backs. In the distance, a blighted smoking land is depicted. Before them hangs a constellation illustrated with semi-precious stones.
Summary: The interior lacks any dates or maps, making placing these events difficult, but the implication is one of distant antiquity. It contains a collection of cautionary tales, fables and cultural strictures, many of which the people who transgressed against and were visited with a great calamity. A small number escaped and now wander the realms. A set of mundane rituals and holidays are included.
A Year in the Bosom of the Sanguine Divide
Description: This book appears to have originally been a common, if well made, blank journal; the sort that have recently come into vogue in the vendor stalls in the markets of larger cities and as gifts among the leisured classes. The script is delicate but precise. The quality and color of ink changes over the course of entries, and a few small and somewhat whimsical watercolor drawings appear with some entries.
Summary: The author has kept notes of various ephemera of their daily life over the course of a year spent in a small, unnamed village in a valley in the mountain range known as the Sanguine Divide. The author's days appear mostly recreational, and they write at length of their observations of the provincial lives of farmers, shepherds and trades-persons of the area in glowing, almost romantic terms. There is no indication why they are engaged in this visit but it is obvious they are not a local and come from an elevated class of society.
The Cleaving of the Three Dales
Description: A slightly ostentatious work, this book bears all the hallmarks of a commissioned work. The heraldry of one of the three dales mentioned appears prominently throughout. The remnants of a short chain bearing clumsy hack marks dangles from the top spine, suggesting it was removed from its resting place in haste or by force.
Summary: The Cleaving covers the history of three small regions that were once a unified province but now exist as unique geographic and cultural entities. The writer presents a narrative that leaves little ambiguity as to the wrongness of this state of affairs; listing numerous causes that lead up the separation and laying the blame squarely on the other two dales. It ends with a declaration of the importance of unity and a less than subtle justification for re-unification at any cost.
The Quotable Courtesan For Every Occasion
Description: If not for its thickness, this tiny tome could almost be palmed in a large hand but contains such small text that older eyes might have difficulty discerning its contents. Conveniently, a small, chipped looking glass on a brass chain is tucked into a discrete notch in the edge of its back cover. Illustrations are sparse, limited to a different figure in outdated courtly fashion in the corner of the first page of each of section.
Summary: The book is divided into sections by topic and situation, with scalloped notches to allow the user to quickly navigate its contents, providing them large number of famous and learned suitable quotes. Although obviously a dated work, the organization and breadth make it surprisingly enduring.
Cantrips: Vocational Magic for the Everyman
Description: This manual is flashily bound in an illustrated cover depicting persons of various walks of life performing magical acts, well beyond the scope of cantrips. Though colorful and impressive, a closer examination suggests modest quality and hurried production.
Summary: While not technically a spellbook, this work actually does present an accessible and fundamental description of the magical principles of the most innocuous common magical cantrips. Its opinion that "anyone with sufficient drive and aspiration can master the basics of magic" is perhaps a bit optimistic though.
The Incidental Accretion of Material Incongruities in the Elemental Planes
Description: The poorly-made wooden slate cover of this volume is obviously a replacement for the original, as it does not match the back cover. Although all the pages are present, the book appears to have been violently torn down the spine and amateurishly reassembled.
Summary: The writing style of this rambling text is very difficult to follow, and the author seems to spontaneously change spellings of frequently used terms. It appears to be composed of field notes partially compiled into disjointed working theory.
Manifest Magicka: A Component Catalogue
Description: This loose collection of pages appears to be cover-less by design and bears a publication date from some years ago. The format is serialized, suggesting that annual revisions preceded and followed it. Its illustrations are simple drawings, lacking the artistry of woodcuts seen in more substantial works, but are clear and concise nonetheless. A small rectangular label pasted on the lower right is mostly torn away, but bears part of a person's name and the name of large city of the realms.
Summary: The manifest documents the major suppliers, regions and prices of various components and exotic supplies of interest to those working in magic. In addition, it offers suggestions on preparation, storage and use, as well as tips to avoid fakery, adulteration and substandard materials.
Noeli's Treatise on the Cooperage of the Inner Sea
Description: The cover of this book is fashioned from thin vertical strips of wood with two metal band running horizontally, in the fashion of a barrel. Along with the title, the cover bears a dedication to a powerful and widespread regional Coopers Guild.
Summary: This appears to be a journeyman's entry-work application for full guild membership. The author attempts to make it clear that she has mastered the art in the manner and quality dictated by the Guild, as well as paying homage to several persons who are presumably mentors, masters or guild officials. Throughout the practical portions of the work the author references specific examples of their own work for examination.
Telluric Cartography: Surveying the Unseen Currents
Description: This tome is bound with a series of "slip" hinges and a four-part cover that allows it to be opened in different directions. Within, its pages are covered in writing, diagrams and illustrations oriented at various angles that require the work to be rotated constantly in order to read it. Small, faceted glass beads embedded in the corners of both the back and front refract light in a curious and unexpected manner.
Summary: This peculiar tome consists of pages arranged in a non-linear manner. Depending on the nature of information sought, the reader must navigate its content in different manners. Whether the author is a genius or madman is debatable, but considerable effort and information is presented in a compelling, almost desperate tone about a theory of lines of energy laying beneath the surface of the world that can be harassed and channeled to potent effect.
Analects from the Azure Course
Description: This neat, trim quarto bears no name on its cover or spine, but instead has a seamless interplay of swirls and ripples that lures the eye to linger and follow them in their passage about the book's exterior surface.
Summary: Only when opened is the title and dedication revealed. While no author credit appears anywhere, an extensive dedication to something called The Azure occupies several pages. The nature of this dedication is highly elusive and poetic, making it unclear if this is a person, place or thing. The analects which follow are mostly philosophy in nature but none of the references are from known people, places or sources.
Social Caste Indicators of the Vhallac Era, Vol. 4: Coifs, Curls and Periwigs
Description: A modest sized folio bound in a dark green leather. All of the corners of its covers appear to have once been protected by embellished brass fixtures, but only two of these remain now. The interior parchment is in surprisingly good condition but heavily notated by some unnamed barber and the occasional fingerprint, each in a different color.
Summary: The work summarizes the use of hairstyles to indicated rank, status and profession during the Vhallac era. It includes many woodcut illustrations of these hairstyles, as well as instruments and techniques.
A Primer in the Legacy Hephaestic
Description: This handsome volume is bound in gray leather so dark as to be nearly black. Its corners and edges bear rough hammered metal embellishments and a variety of Smithing tools are embossed on the leather's surface. The faint odor of soot wafts up from its pages when the book is opened.
Summary: Despite its haughty title and an extensive amount of initial material dedicated to history and concepts, the work does eventually become more technical, covering practical concepts. It spans such topics as forge setup and maintenance, properties and usages of common metals, processes for creating basic implements & tools and repairing existing items. The writer seems to specifically avoid addressing armor and weaponry, however.
Sanguinolent Ailments and their Administration
Description: A work of peculiar physical dimensions, being bound on the narrowest side and having a curious notch intentionally missing from the upper right corner. The back cover bears several curiously shaped sleeves and pouches. Though empty now, the previous contents left well-defined outlines in the thick, brown leather.
Summary: This work contains a surprisingly comprehensive list of ailments both physical and mental, attributing all of them to an imbalance of the sanguine humor.
Small Watercraft: Design, Manufacture and Maintenance
Description: This book includes a sturdy slip case that seems to have spared it from most of the ravages of time and use. It features several large fold-out pages which allow it to helpfully illustrate important details of various types of watercraft and their features.
Summary: The work is both an overview of several of the sorts of small watercraft found throughout the realms, but freshwater and coastal use. Topics such as materials selection, fabrication techniques and designs for construction, as well as common repair and maintenance of existing craft are addressed. A short chapter is dedicated to comparing the qualities of various types of craft, their strengths, weaknesses and best uses. The author is not named but a tiny figure of a whale (breaching, spouting, diving, etc) appears throughout as a playful signature of a sort.
Botanical Locus: The Southern Reaches
Description: This tidy volume would easily fit in a large belt pouch . It is bound in green dyed leather and embellished, unsurprisingly, with simple leaves and vine work. A small slip latch holds the book closed. The page edges bear a variety of colors in seemingly random patterns, but flexing them slightly slightly reveals "edge painting" in the form of a basic map of the Southern Reaches area.
Summary: The Botanical is a clear reference guide to the plants common & native to the Southern Reaches. Each entry has a clean outline drawing, along with helpful information such as season, typical environment, useful parts, warnings, usages and similar looking plants. The work appears to be part of a larger collection, though it is not numbered in any way that suggests whether or not other companion works were ever actually printed.
Moontouched or Under Luna's Fist
Description: This tome is bound in a dark red, almost black, leather. Various parts of the cover and corners show scuffs and other signs of rough handling. A series of chunky silver embellishments on the cover have been used to illustrate an unknown constellations of stars and the moon. A hasp appears to have once allowed the book to be locked, but most of the mechanism has been broken off and is missing.
Summary: This book appears to be a binding of the collected notes of some poor soul's struggle with lycanthropy. The pages do not always match in size or composition, but someone has made an attempt to arrange and mount them in a presentable format. Dates of transformations, frank confessionals, legends/lores and attempted cures all appear, with many of the latter not completely explored. The journal abruptly ends with no indication of the fate of the author.
The Procession of the Brides of Erendiz
Description: The tome is substantially heavier than one would expect, even for a work of this size. No author or dedication appears upon or within and the book always opens to the first page regardless of what section is chosen. Once opened, the pages can only be turned one after another. The next page appears regardless of how many are flipped through or any attempts to skip forward.
Summary: The "Procession" documents the sacrificial brides of an entity called Erendiz. The work is profoundly unsettling. Considerable and increasing effort is required to progress through its contents. However, each bride entry contains some aspect or feature of Erendiz that is not commonly known, even among its followers.