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The Swiss Army Knife of the Bitcoin protocol.

Project description


This Python3 library provides an easy interface to the bitcoin data structures and protocol. The approach is low-level and "ground up", with a focus on providing tools to manipulate the internals of how Bitcoin works.

"The Swiss Army Knife of the Bitcoin protocol." - Wladimir J. van der Laan


sudo apt-get install libssl-dev

The RPC interface, bitcoin.rpc, is designed to work with Bitcoin Core v0.16.0. Older versions may work but there do exist some incompatibilities.


Everything consensus critical is found in the modules under bitcoin.core. This rule is followed pretty strictly, for instance chain parameters are split into consensus critical and non-consensus-critical.

bitcoin.core            - Basic core definitions, datastructures, and
                          (context-independent) validation
bitcoin.core.key        - ECC pubkeys
bitcoin.core.script     - Scripts and opcodes
bitcoin.core.scripteval - Script evaluation/verification
bitcoin.core.serialize  - Serialization

In the future the bitcoin.core may use the Satoshi sourcecode directly as a library. Non-consensus critical modules include the following:

bitcoin          - Chain selection
bitcoin.base58   - Base58 encoding
bitcoin.bloom    - Bloom filters (incomplete)      - Network communication (in flux)
bitcoin.messages - Network messages (in flux)
bitcoin.rpc      - Bitcoin Core RPC interface support
bitcoin.wallet   - Wallet-related code, currently Bitcoin address and
                   private key support

Effort has been made to follow the Satoshi source relatively closely, for instance Python code and classes that duplicate the functionality of corresponding Satoshi C++ code uses the same naming conventions: CTransaction, CBlockHeader, nValue etc. Otherwise Python naming conventions are followed.

Mutable vs. Immutable objects

Like the Bitcoin Core codebase CTransaction is immutable and CMutableTransaction is mutable; unlike the Bitcoin Core codebase this distinction also applies to COutPoint, CTxIn, CTxOut, and CBlock.

Endianness Gotchas

Rather confusingly Bitcoin Core shows transaction and block hashes as little-endian hex rather than the big-endian the rest of the world uses for SHA256. python-bitcoinlib provides the convenience functions x() and lx() in bitcoin.core to convert from big-endian and little-endian hex to raw bytes to accommodate this. In addition see b2x() and b2lx() for conversion from bytes to big/little-endian hex.

Module import style

While not always good style, it's often convenient for quick scripts if import * can be used. To support that all the modules have __all__ defined appropriately.

Example Code

See examples/ directory. For instance this example creates a transaction spending a pay-to-script-hash transaction output:

$ PYTHONPATH=. examples/
<hex-encoded transaction>

Selecting the chain to use

Do the following:

import bitcoin

Where NAME is one of 'testnet', 'mainnet', 'signet', or 'regtest'. The chain currently selected is a global variable that changes behavior everywhere, just like in the Satoshi codebase.

Unit tests

Under bitcoin/tests using test data from Bitcoin Core. To run them:

python3 -m unittest discover

Alternately, if Tox (see is available on your system, you can run unit tests for multiple Python versions:


HTML coverage reports can then be found in the htmlcov/ subdirectory.


Sphinx documentation is in the "doc" subdirectory. Run "make help" from there to see how to build. You will need the Python "sphinx" package installed.

Currently this is just API documentation generated from the code and docstrings. Higher level written docs would be useful, perhaps starting with much of this README. Pages are written in reStructuredText and linked from index.rst.

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