Codex Seraphinianus: World's Strangest Book

Brand: imusti
Manufacturer: Rizzoli
MPN: 38480327
Category: #37776 in Hardcover (Artists' Books)
List Price: $135.00
Price: $76.99  (231 customer reviews)
You Save: $58.01 (43%)
Dimension: 13.5 x 9.0 x 1.8 inches
Shipping Wt: 5.16 pounds. FREE Shipping (Details)
Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours
Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars
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Product Description

An extraordinary and surreal art book, this edition has been redesigned by the author and includes new illustrations. Ever since the Codex Seraphinianus was first published in 1981, the book has been recognized as one of the strangest and most beautiful art books ever made. This visual encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language has fueled much debate over its meaning. Written for the information age and addressing the import of coding and decoding in genetics, literary criticism, and computer science, the Codex confused, fascinated, and enchanted a generation.

While its message may be unclear, its appeal is obvious: it is a most exquisite artifact. Blurring the distinction between art book and art object, this anniversary edition-redesigned by the author and featuring new illustrations-presents this unique work in a new, unparalleled light. With the advent of new media and forms of communication and continuous streams of information, the Codex is now more relevant and timely than ever. A special limited and numbered deluxe edition that includes a signed print is also available.

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  • Rizzoli

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Top Reviews

Leonardo da Vinci on acid
by Solari (5 out of 5 stars)
January 27, 2016

Codex Seraphianus is one of my favorite books, but I have never read it. No one has, in fact, because this encyclopedia of a surreal world is written in an imaginary alphabet, with indecipherable texts.

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.
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A classic
by Hrnyhairy,Top Contributor: Eye Makeup (5 out of 5 stars)
February 9, 2017

When I was in grade school my mom saved her money from working nights at a store (that ryhmes with small cart) to buy me this book. I loved it. When my twins were born in 2013 I ordered this for their first Christmas. They are 3 1/2 now and we are incorporating it into our night time story hour. Obviously since the language is indecipherable we, as a little group, make it up to go along with the pics. Some of you might think some of the pics are too grotesque/graphic for toddlers and that is fine. Don't show your toddlers. But I like mine to see art in many different forms and this book is, for my parenting style, an invaluable tool in teaching my boys how to interpret art. It's a fascinating book, unique and eccentric and an oddity in the most fantastic of ways. If you love out of the ordinary coffee books, this might also be the book for you!
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If you're a fan of surrealism, or experiential artwork, this book is definitely worthwhile.
by B (5 out of 5 stars)
March 30, 2016

The artists intent was to recreate the feeling that a child has when looking in wonder at a book before they can read it. They know that all those squiggles and pictures mean something to adults, but not to them. I relive that curiosity when flipping through this book and trying to make sense of the surreal drawings and notations. The whole effect has been beautifully captured and presented on high quality paper and in an oversized format. Even that oversized format adds to the feeling of being a child, a time when everything is bigger.

Well worth the price.
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Best book I've never read.
by ASCII Aardvark (5 out of 5 stars)
May 5, 2017

This is apparently designed to simulate the experience of a pre-literate child pulling down an encyclopedia from their parent's library and wondering at all the strange pictures, unable to read the text explaining them - at that age, there is so little you know that everything is mysterious and bizarre; and so it is with this book. Very trippy.
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Absolutely love this indecipherable book!
by towelmaster (5 out of 5 stars)
April 8, 2019

I love art and weird stuff, and this book combines both perfectly. Like peering into a world of both nonsense and wonder. What is going on in this book? Part Bosch, part Dr. Seuss, who knows. But it's engrossing, and beautiful in many ways. An exploration of the subconscious. It's telling you something, and it's not clear exactly what. It could be anything you assign to it. Or maybe it represents all of human thought and experience. Everyone will see something different in these strange images and alien language. I can't recommend it enough!
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A fascinating work of art
by Phil Loubere (5 out of 5 stars)
January 22, 2018

This is one of the most remarkable books of the last century, hugely imaginative, entertaining and surprising. The print quality is excellent as well. I was happy to see the new edition, which is somewhat more affordable. The book used to be fairly difficult to find.

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.
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A Masterwork of Surrealistic, Fantastic Art!
by S. Licht (5 out of 5 stars)
September 2, 2017

This is a birthday gift to myself! To say it is original and brilliant is an understatement! Strange, visionary, drawing on an inner world and other worlds, this is an aesthetic and mind-bending feast! It defies labeling or description--surrealistic, mystical, insanely humorous, brain-candy, making the deepest caverns of your inner self gasp, laugh, cry out--just a hint of the pleasures of this book! It is printed on very fine paper, made to last for years and years. An archive of the intensely mysterious, a delight to those who love art, science, humor and the unusual.
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A Treasure
by BJ (5 out of 5 stars)
August 6, 2017

A beautiful art object that rewards infinite returns. It's like a portal to another world, honestly. I read that his intention in creating this book was to reproduce the feeling of being very, very young and looking through a book such as an encyclopedia, when the words are meaningless symbols and your mind can barely comprehend images that aren't directly associated with your tiny understanding of your world. Definitely achieved that effect.
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Alien, Yet Familiar
by RDD,Top Contributor: Batman (5 out of 5 stars)
February 23, 2017

Italian artist Luigi Serafini's "Codex Seraphinianus" is a gorgeous illuminated manuscript describing a world of the artist's imagining. One that's alien, yet familiar at the same time. The invented language he uses also recalls several all at the same time: Arabic, ancient Greek, and the Burmese alphabet. It demands that the reader take the time to carefully pour over each illustration and line of script in order to glean some insight into this unfamiliar world. Serafini's description of the creative process recalls a cloistered monk carefully transcribing the mysteries of the universe by candlelight. This is a must-have for fans of the unusual or those who want to add wonder to their lives.
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Bizarre, intriguing, beautiful
by Michael Pagan (5 out of 5 stars)
January 17, 2014

I had heard about this book in the early 1980's; a surreal encyclopedia written in an indecipherable script. I wanted to see one! But at the time copies were selling for collector-level pricing. Beyond my budget.

Now it is in print again, and as soon as I heard, I snapped up a copy at a more budget friendly price.

It has turned out to be everything I had imagine. The page numbers are, of course, in their own alien leu reals but I think it's over 700 large-format pages on beautiful heavy ridged paper. The artwork (encyclopedia?) is divided into several sections with tantalizingly consistent themes: botany, zoology, anthropology, and so forth. Each page has multiple illustrations and "text" annotations. The alien script is beautiful and self-consistent. It is clearly an alphabet, with recurring letters, but there is no way to discern meaning other than the context of the pictures and the graphic layout. One thing that strikes me is the monumental undertaking this must have been, to generate page upon page of script before the age of computers. I believe this whole Codex was done by hand, which is part of the appeal. It's art. It's mystery. It's gigantic and detailed to a level verging on obsessive-compulsive madness!

Highly, highly recommend ate for any lover of strangeness!

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