Codex Seraphinianus is the name of one of the strangest books that was ever published. It was created between 1976 and 1978 by the Italian architect and designer Luigi Serafini and was published in 1981. So far, the book is considered the most peculiar and comprehensive encyclopedia.
A new edition of the book will appear this October in bookshops worldwide. The news is not at all surprising, considering the fact that the book enjoyed a good deal of publicity, which was triggered by the huge speculation about its meaning and the language in which the book is written. Many linguists have tried to decipher the language and have failed. On the other hand, the author claims that anyone can understand the book if that person uses common language instead of the traditional perception. Even so, no one has been able to understand the meaning of Serafini’s ordinary language, thus the encyclopedia remains a mystery.
Over the years, Serafini himself has revealed relatively little about the book. He explained that The Codex has no meaning, but nobody really believes him.
The fact is the even the book’s title “Codex Seraphinianus” is at least ambiguous. The first term comes from the Latin “codex”, which means “code”, while “Seraphinianus” comes from the author’s name Serafini, which in Italian means “seraph” – a type of celestial being in the Abrahamic religions. Therefore, many people came up with the idea that everything described in the book is related to these biblical beings, which are living in a world parallel to ours.
Written in an unknown alphabet, a series of letters made of curved lines, the encyclopedia contains two volumes. The first one has five chapters spread over 180 pages and shows the author’s perception of animals, plants and flowers, chemistry and physics and mechanics. The second volume is not much larger, containing seven chapters and 185 pages about human anatomy, history and geography, grammar, cuisine and fashion, funny games and, of course, architecture. Coincidence or not, the entire encyclopedia has 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, but also 365 pages, just like the number of days in one year.
Critics consider this encyclopedia as a parody of everyday life, where beauty meets the grotesque, where surrealist meets colloquial and where reality is combined with the author’s fantasy. Serafini never accepted the critics’ description, and he argued all along that The Codex is simply a fact that people can not understand yet. According to the author, it’s just like when children watch an illustrated book for adults and therefore they don’t understand much, but they know that the things they see have a logical sense. The same principle applies to adults when they read the Codex Seraphinianus, they don’t understand everything they see, but they know that those things are normal. However, this explanation further deepens the mystery around this strange book.
The scan of the book.