The Slayer Handbook was a tome titled Vampyr given to Slayers by their Watchers to instruct them on how to operate as the Slayer. The book contained the history and rules concerning magic and the supernatural world.
The original handbook was a large leather bound tome titled Vampyr. According to Giles and Dracula's recognition, the book was the very first and most complete attempt by man to record and codify the laws of magic. Initially a study of vampires — the most pressing threat — its scope grew over time, as did the book's power. It became, by common acceptance, the definitive guide to magic on Earth.
Giles had presented it to Buffy when she first arrived in Sunnydale, but then decided she wasn't one to follow rules and put the book away. Zabuto, Kendra's watcher, owned a copy as well to instruct her. According to Kendra, the handbook insisted that Slayers studied demonology.
After Giles' death, despite Faith was his main heiress, he left the book for Buffy. With this gesture, Faith said Giles meant that Buffy was the one true Slayer and he believed in her strength. Buffy kept it in the weapons chest in her bedroom in San Francisco.
During the end of magic, Simone and Severin sought after the Slayer Handbook. They believed it would help them to successfully turn Simone into a vampire instead of a zompire, after which she would be able to defeat Buffy. Among its contents, it had the secrets of the Deeper Well spring and how to access it, including the story of the Old One Maloker.
New rules of magic
- “See? If I'd read the book when you wanted me to, it would've been a huge waste of time. Score one for procrastination!”
- ―Buffy Summers[src]
After the new Seed of Wonder was formed, Buffy and Willow discovered the Slayer Handbook's pages completely blank. With the sudden return of magic to the Earth, the book was being gradually rewritten, similarly to Dawn's feelings and memories that suffered a "reset" and were returning over time.
Some time later, Giles noticed a handful of pages that were filled again. He described that it chronicled the same Slayer history the book once did, but with new additions: "No longer is but one chosen. The power itself becomes the chosen one… and the one who chooses," which implicated that the combined spiritual force of all past Slayers had then more agency than before. Men still couldn't be Slayers outright, as the vampire hunter Billy didn't share the Slayer strength or speed, but the essence of the Slayers accepted him as an ally when he had a vision of Sineya.
Some rules never appeared again, such as the necessity to cast spells in dead languages. But newly written pages kept appearing as new laws of magic were being established, automatically reproducing common beliefs. New vampires had the same abilities as the popular Dracula mythology (shapeshifting, walking in the sun, superior strength) listed in the book directly as facts.
But the reverse process of creating rules would also work; writing into the book would cause the information to become true. Following Harmony's plan, Clem wrote: "unicorns are totally real," which successfully became a reality. However, similarly to vengeance demons' wishes, the book could interpret a writing into something undesirable, such as Dracula transforming into the most powerful vampire Maloker instead of himself gaining the most power among vampires. Additions to the book could also be rejected, with the ink squirting from the page; it acted as such with retcons, clichés, and crossings.
With the Slayer Handbook under Dracula's power, he made Xander transcribe: "Dracula's body was restored to its bloom of youth, vigor, and comeliness." Another transcription was: "All beings alive and undead, natural and supernatural, recognized Dracula as lord of all vampires," which backfired as vampires attempted to kill in order to replace him as king. With the drastic consequences of then writing that "Dracula become the most powerful vampire of all" (turning into Maloker), the book rejected Andrew writing that "suddenly Dracula's transformation was undone" and "then Dracula woke up. It had all been a dream." Xander found the solution writing that "Dracula's awesome willpower gave him strength to fight off Maloker, and give up the new powers he'd acquired," and added: "Everyone Dracula had power over also found themselves free."
In reunion with D'Hoffryn and Buffy, Giles wrote that the barriers between Earth and magical dimensions would be naturally strong, and lesser demons, like the Hamelin demon that inhabited their building, would be no longer able to break through with the same ease. Despite this, there was the exception of the fae queen Monarch, able to use her scepter to create portals between her domain and the Earth.
Andrew attempted to use the Vampyr to resurrect Tara, but Willow was able to stop him before anything was written. He intended to write: "The resurrection of Tara Maclay was completed successfully, without any negative consequences. Henceforth resurrection spells succeeded without the undesired side effects previously associated with them. The subject returned as they were before dying, but healthy if they'd been sick. They resumed a natural life, with no zombification, monkey's-paw-type unpleasantness, or anything bad whatsoever."
As the book's owner and responsible, Buffy received lobbyists to discuss their interests in the rules of magic. Among them, Vicki and Harmony negotiated for the new vampires to maintain their new powers, allowing Buffy to limit it by removing their ability to shapeshift by the sunlight. Such frequent diplomatic encounters in her apartment made Xander and Spike's the main location to safeguard the book.
Buffy and Giles used the Slayer Handbook to give the Magic Council members different powers to help with the battles against the Mistress, the Soul Glutton, and the Sculptor. D'Hoffryn was granted the power to detect and pinpoint the usage of concentrated mystic energy; Monarch was given the ability to drain the magic power of any being not native to Earth; Keiko became able to absorb and redirect kinetic energy of purely physical assaults; the Quiet Man gained the power to return any being to its native dimension; the Brahma was given the ability to sense any opponent's greatest weakness; while Matango was granted invulnerability to magical attacks. Its subjection theta-seven said: "Should a Council member be rendered unable to discharge their duties, the rights and responsibilities of their office shall be equally divided among the remaining member of the council until a replacement be named."
D'Hoffryn claimed from the very beginning that the Council had "the requisite power, experience, and wisdom to shape the laws of the new era," interested in taking away the Vampyr book away from Buffy. He then took advantage of the subjection of dividing new abilities, assassinating all other Council members to gain their immense power, then being able to rob the book from the Slayer. He attempted to use the Slayer Handbook to eliminate vengeance demons being restricted to acting only under humans' wishes; however, Buffy had contacted her allies to build the consensus that he wasn't able to make any change in the book, successfully preventing him from doing so.
Behind the scenes
- The prop used on screen was made using 150 year old The Pictorial Bible, published in 1875 in many different variations. The original inscriptions in the corners of the embossed gilt leather cover were maintained: "The word of the Lord endureth forever," "Trust in the living God," "Glory to God peace good will toward men," and "The gift of God is eternal life."
- In the unaired Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, a different cover was used for the Vampyr tome, which became the back of the book in the reshoot for the episode "Welcome to the Hellmouth," as seen in promotional pictures for the first season.
- Scott Allie has confirmed that the Vampyr book and the Slayer Handbook were one and the same. Though in recent talks could not remember having said so.
- According to Christos Gage, the book only applies to rules of magic, and therefore unable to act on mundane statements.
- In Buffy Season 10, Christos Gage defined the Vampyr, in the form of a magic rule book, as a metaphor for "taking the first steps into adulthood" and "realizing you have to make your own choices as best as you can for you and those you love, with people all around you pushing their own interests."
- The Slayer handbook was the base of the following licensed merchandises: a box replica by Factory X; the role-playing game manual Slayer's Handbook by Eden Studios; a stationary set by Insight Editions; the Vampyr Hardcover Ruled Journal by Insight Editions; the reference book Buffy the Vampire Slayer Encyclopedia by Harper Design; and the mini book Talking Slayer Handbook.
- The Slayer handbook was included as an accessory for three Buffy the Vampire Slayer action figures, one Deluxe action figure, and a Sideshow Collectibles Premium Format.