Sunday, 13 October 2013

Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini

About 15 years ago I was at my friend Jean-Marc’s house, when he thrust a most peculiar book into my hands, the Codex Seraphinianus. It was interesting, but it didn’t rock my world. I wondered if I needed to be on a lot of LSD to get it. In the intervening years I’ve had other opportunities to peruse it again and my appreciation for it has grown. Watching the videos below a few nights back gave me an even better sense of what a huge work it is.

I suspect many will dismiss it as too weird to be taken seriously, but the amount of thought and effort that went into it is astonishing. It really can’t be dismissed so easily. Not at 400 pages it can’t. This is not the disjointed rambling of a mere kook, but the cohesive vision of a capable artist.

It’s a world that seems plausible, yet...isn’t; machines that seem viable, yet....aren’t; flora and fauna that might exist, yet....can’t.

Is it a comprehensive encyclopedia of an alien world? The visual recordings of nightmares? The travelogue of a psychedelic experience? The scribbled notes of a lunatic? The production drawings for the most surreal movie of all time? Who knows. With its own unique alphabet and language that no one has ever deciphered, it’s impossible to tell.

It’s one of those books that likely baffles book stores and libraries. Is it art, science fiction, fantasy, surrealism?

Several editions have been published since its original appearance in 1981. First editions have gone for as much as $5000. Now a new edition from Rizzoli is about to hit the market, with all new material. Link to Amazon.
Just a few pictures.
And video flip throughs of the book.

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