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Apologies in advance if this is a duplicate, I could (to my surprise) not find a question on this (there is only one for Pathfinder).

The question is simple: is a normal spellbook in 5e a magical item or not? (Not asking about the Grimoire from TCE, nor about the Awakened Spellbook from an Order of Scribes wizard).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have (or I suppose had) any reason to think it would be a magic item? Or some other concern to which this clarification is relevant? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Mar 6, 2022 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, this came up in this related question, about if your book is a special item only you can use; and my group in play had been wondering about it. If it was, you could detect them with Detect Magic (highly desireable for the adventuring PC wizard). I think it is releavnt, and wanted to link to a pre-exisitng Q&A, but there was none (or I found none, only for PF). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2022 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I assume the answer to this question in my answer to this question about magical spell books and attunement. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2022 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ That answer unfortunately is really not obvious to find when you search for the qeustion if a normal spellbook is a magic item, as the Q there is about magical spellbooks from TCE. I created a new, separate question more in line with the Pathfinder one, so I can refer to it in future. Your answer seems to agree that normal books are not magic items, although it does not argue why. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 6, 2022 at 22:45

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A normal spellbook is not a magic item

A spellbook is described in the adventuring gear section of the PHB thusly:

Essential for wizards, a spellbook is a leather-bound tome with 100 blank vellum pages suitable for recording spells.

Page 114 of the PHB in the wizard section describes it as follows:

The Book’s Appearance. Your spellbook is a unique compilation of spells, with its own decorative flourishes and margin notes. It might be a plain, functional leather volume that you received as a gift from your master, a finely bound gilt-edged tome you found in an ancient library, or even a loose collection of notes scrounged together after you lost your previous spellbook in a mishap.

  • Spellbook is not listed in the magic item section of the DMG

  • Spellbook is in the list of adventuring gear

As a counterexample, the potion of healing, a common magic item that appears on the adventuring gear list, also appears in the magic item list, and its description there explicitly states it is a "magical red fluid". (Thanks to commenters). The potion is the only individual item in the table that is in italics, a convention often used for magic items. The spellbook is in plain font type.

The spellbook is just a book (or other substrate for your unique system of recording spells) of high quality, that you use expensive, special inks to write spells into.

This unofficial Jeremy Crawford tweet confirms this

A normal spellbook or spellcasting focus is not a magic item.

Would inscribing a spell into the book maybe suffice to turn it from a mundane item into a magic item? This would be against the rules on how to create magic items, which require crafting (page 128, DMG). There is no specific rule for turning mundane into magical spellbooks in the core rules to override this.

Because a normal spellbook is not a magic item, it does not radiate magic and cannot be detected with detect magic. It also does not benefit from the increased resilience to damage that magic items enjoy (such as resistance to all damage types), and needs to be protected appropriately from harm.

Just like there are normal swords and magic swords, there can be spellbooks that are magic items. Thasha's Cauldron of Everything lists several of them, for example the Arcane Grimoire, Astromancy Archive or Atlas of Endless Horizons. Just the normal spellbook is not a magic item.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically it's just the adventuring gear section. It doesn't say anything about being mundane. This is especially relevant since potion of healing is one of the listed items and they are magical. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2022 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AllanMills Actually that's a good counter-example. The potion of healing specifically calls out in its description that it's magical. "A character who drinks the magical red fluid in this vial..." If the spellbook were meant to be magical, it'd say so. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2022 at 1:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym And healing potions appear in the magic items section of the DMG. Spellbooks don’t. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2022 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe the spellbook in the adventure section is blank, which is why it is mundane. At level 1 a wizard writes in it and it could become magical, which is why all the spellbooks in places like Tasha's are magical? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 7, 2022 at 11:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri or it could be that the spell books in Tasha's have additional magical functions (which they do) and that is why those particular examples are magic items (their additional abilities not that they are a spellbook) \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Mar 7, 2022 at 12:58

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