Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini

This post is not about a book I've read or am reading, but a book I read about and would love to see in person. I'm currently reading A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel. He discusses "picture reading" in one chapter and mentions a book by Luigi Serafini entitled The Codex Seraphinianus. I found quite a few nice scans of pages on an ebay listing (and I'm sure a google search would yield plenty of results), but these images are from an article in The Believer: The Codex Seraphinianus.

(click to see them bigger)

Manguel writes about how the publisher he worked for received a strange parcel in 1978, one that contained the pages of Luigi Serafini's book:

The accompanying letter explained that the author, Luigi Serafini, had created an encyclopedia of an imaginary world along the lines of a medieval scientific compendium: each page precisely depicted a specific entry, and the annotations, in a nonsensical alphabet which Serafini had also invented during two long years in a small apartment in Rome, were meant to explain the illustrations' intricacies. Ricci [the aforementioned publisher for whom Manguel was working], to his credit, published the work in two luxurious volumes with a delighted introduction by Italo Calvino; they are one of the most curious examples of an illustrated book I know. Made entirely of invented words and pictures, the Codex Seraphinianus must be read without the help of a common language, through signs for which there are no meanings except those furnished by a willing and inventive reader.

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