- Hardcover: 396 pages
- Publisher: Rizzoli; Multilingual, New, Updated edition (October 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0847842134
- ISBN-13: 978-0847842131
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.8 x 13.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 243 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Codex Seraphinianus Hardcover – October 29, 2013
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“…the book really does live up to its reputation: The drawings are in turn hilarious, disturbing, bizarre and, sometimes, just flat-out incomprehensible, but all of them are annotated in Serafini’s script.” -Dangerous Minds
“It’s not the sort of thing that easily lends itself to classification, but probably the most accurate way to describe it would be as an encyclopedia of an invented alien civilization…the Codex is still a disorienting and provocative vision of inscrutable otherness.” -Slate.com
“Codex Seraphinianus is an art book in the most direct sense—there are big, beautiful drawings accompanied by indecipherable letterforms--and it is impossible to “read” in a literal way. The text has remained a mystery all these years, and perhaps that’s part of its draw as an art object.” -FineBooks Magazine
“Is the best art book of the year one that is not only impossible for me to review, but one that is probably equally impossible for you to understand? It’s a handsome, hilarious and enduring puzzle that not only features wonderful art in it, but in its entirety captures another kind of human creativity—the encyclopedia, the result of compiling and collecting, and an unlikely medium for artists.” -North Adams Transcript
"Codex Seraphinianus: History’s Most Bizarre and Beautiful Encyclopedia, Brought Back to Life...a weird and wonderful masterpiece of art and philosophical provocation on the precipice of the information age....Undoubtedly one of the most intricate and beautiful art books ever created." -Brain Pickings
“Wow. One of the strangest and most beautiful books ever published.” –Faerie Tales
“Codex Seraphinianus is in a sense the most elaborate book of doodles ever made. What makes it much more than that is not just the quality of Serafini’s drawings and the superior book-making craft, but its brilliant structure. Part of the genius of the Codex is that there is enough information to be familiar but not enough to make any sense.” –Spectrum Culture
“The intense strangeness of Codex Seraphinianus belies the joyous feel of the artistry. Even the oddest, most unnerving images are rendered with pastel beauty, and a softness that makes them almost endearing.” –KQED
About the Author
Luigi Serafini is an architect, ceramist, glazier, painter, sculptor, designer, opera director, set designer, and critic who works in Italy and abroad. In 2007, the Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea in Milan dedicated a successful mostra ontological (ontological exhibition) to him. He has illustrated works by Franz Kafka and Michael Ende.
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The book was first published in 1981, by Italian artist and architect Luigi Serafini. He claims he created the book during a three-year-long mental outbreak in Rome in 1976, and that he doesn’t consider himself the author of the codex. The true author, Serafini claims, is a white cat he found some day as he went back home and lay on his lap as he wrote and drew the codex.
“The white cat was the true author. I passed for the author, but was only a manual executor. As the present confession could not be done before for copyright reasons, I take the chance to express, with the author’s permission, the most sincere thanks for the cat, in memoriam.”
And how is the book the cat wrote and Serafini transcribed? It looks like a codex from Leonardo da Vinci if he was on acid. An alien encyclopedia written in an impossible language, describing a world that at the same time remembers and parodies our own. It is the kind of object Jorge Luis Borges imagined in Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, an artifact from another world that for some reason passed through the cracks of reality into our own. It is possibly the strangest book ever written.
Linguists tried for over thirty years to translate the language, but only the numeral code, based on 21, has been cracked. Recently, Serafini said the writing is meaningless. This is how he says the crazy calligraphy of the codex was born: “It was the writing that contained the dreams of several other writings.”
The book is divided in 11 chapters, with themes that can more or less be inferred by the images: flora, fauna, biped creatures, chemistry, culture, mythology, games, architecture, technology and so on. The images have a very characteristic surreal feel, like the way they mend together biological parts and machines. A book filled with migrating trees, impossible cities, half-built creatures, and the famous image of a copulating couple turning into a crocodile.
Quite simply an incredible, one of-a-kind book.
Well worth the price.
For those who have seen it before, I believe this is the second edition (2006?) and does have some minor differences. I saw the original 1981 edition at the Fine Arts Library at Harvard and aside from the obvious differences of the cover, the other differences (at least as I remember) are slight. As I just mentioned, the original cover of the first edition was black, whereas this one is white with the circle illustration that turns into ladybug like insects. The second difference, which I will have to verify at some later point, is in the initial pages of the book itself. The second edition seems to have a different set of initial pages with different illustrations, some of them almost seem to be aimed at a children's story, but it definitely seems like an additional preamble with new illustrations. I even have a picture of one of the initial pages of the first edition on my phone which just does not match up with what I see in this version. To put it another way, the first edition seems to go straight into the chapters of the encyclopedia, whereas this second edition has about 10 extra pages that seem to be of a different composition than the typical chapters which seem more like catalog/encyclopedia entries. Once the first real chapter starts though, the books appear identical.
The only other difference in this edition is that the original came with a poster-sized illustration tucked into the back binding of the often reproduced lovers turning into an alligator. This edition, on the other hand, has a small soft-covered book in the back pocket which is in Italian. Alas my Italian is quite rusty, but it appears to be a collection of essays concerning the Codex.
Here is the good news about one of my biggest fears before ordering the second edition. Since the first edition has gotten so expensive ($500 plus on the cheapest I've found), I was concerned that the quality of the printing of the second edition available from Italy for approx $115 would be somehow less. I'm VERY happy to report that the printing quality is the same as the first edition (at least to my recollection). The feel of the pages has the same heavy, textured weight and the illustrations retain the look of hand-drawn colored pencil drawings.
Overall, my only disappointment was that this edition's cover has been changed to white. There was something about the black cover that I felt matched the book better. Still, that is only a very minor issue and I'm interested that this edition seems to contain more content than the original (if only a few pages worth).
My campus library had a copy briefly a decade ago, but foolishly left it open to general circulation. Of course someone made off with it.
Most recent customer reviews
It’s meaning comes from the images!...