Franco Maria Ricci & Luigi Serafini - Codex Seraphinianus - 1981

Franco Maria Ricci & Luigi Serafini - Codex Seraphinianus - 1981
Art, Literature, Science (general) - Quantity: 2 - Limited edition, Numbered edition, Signed by author, With slipcase - Book

Codex Seraphinianus
2 volumes 1st numbered facsimile edition
Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus
Publisher: Franco Maria Ricci, 1st edition. 1981, Milano

2 volumes: 127 + 127 pp., 108 + 128 plates
36 x 24 cm books, bound in black silk with their respective cases of size 37 x 25 cm (slight flaws: look at the photos please).
Handmade paper.
Limited edition of 4,000 numbered copies (our copy is no. 3,541).
It contains a letter from the publisher. Hand signed by the author.

Codex Seraphinianus is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world, created by Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini between 1976 and 1978. It's written in an imaginary language. Originally published in Italy, it has been launched in several countries. Our copy belongs to the FIRST EDITION published in Italy. The Codex is an encyclopedia in manuscript with copious hand-drawn, colored-pencil illustrations of bizarre and fantastical flora, fauna, anatomies, fashions, and foods. It has been compared to the still undeciphered Voynich manuscript, the story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ by Jorge Luis Borges, and the artwork of M. C. Escher and Hieronymus Bosch. The illustrations are often surreal parodies of real-world things, such as a bleeding fruit, a plant that grows roughly in the shape of a chair and then becomes one, and a copulating couple who metamorphose into an alligator. Others depict odd, apparently senseless machines, often with delicate appearances and bound by tiny filaments. Some illustrations are recognisable as maps or human faces; while others (especially in the ‘physics’ chapter) are mostly or totally abstract. Nearly all of the illustrations are brightly coloured and highly detailed.

The false writing system appears modelled on Western writing systems, with left-to-right writing in rows and an alphabet with uppercase and lowercase letters, some of which double as numerals. Some letters appear only at the beginning or end of words, similar to Semitic writing systems. The curvilinear letters are rope- or thread-like, with loops and even knots, and are somewhat reminiscent of Sinhala script. In a talk at the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles on 11th May 2009, Serafini stated that there is no meaning behind the Codex's script, which is asemic; that his experience in writing it was similar to automatic writing; and that what he wanted his alphabet to convey was the sensation children feel with books they cannot yet understand, although they see that the writing makes sense for adults. However, the book's page-numbering system was decoded by Allan C. Wechsler and Bulgarian linguist Ivan Derzhanski, and is a variation of base 21.

The book is in eleven chapters, in two sections. The first section appears to describe the natural world of flora, fauna and physics. The second deals with various aspects of human life, including garments, history, cuisine and architecture. Each chapter seems to address a general encyclopedic topic, as follows: Types of flora: strange flowers, trees that uproot themselves and migrate, etc. Fauna (animals), including surreal variations of the horse, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and birds. An apparently separate kingdom of odd bipedal creatures. Physics and chemistry (generally considered the most abstract, enigmatic chapter). Bizarre machines and vehicles. The humanities: biology, sexuality, aboriginal peoples, including some examples with plant life and tools (e.g. pens, wrenches) grafted onto the human body. History: people (some only vaguely human) of unknown significance, with their times of birth and death; scenes of historical and possibly religious significance; burial and funereal customs The Codex's writing system historyFood, dining practices, garments Bizarre games, including cards, board games and athletic sports Architecture After the last chapter is a table of contents or index, followed by an apparent afterword whose writing is more casually rendered. Two plates in the sixth chapter contain lines of French text, a quote from Marcel Proust's ‘À la recherche du temps perdu: Albertine disparue’. The words scattered on the floor of the illustration are from the same book.

Lot details
Number of Books
Art, Literature, Science (general)
Author/ Illustrator
Franco Maria Ricci & Luigi Serafini
Book Title
Codex Seraphinianus
Publication year oldest item
1st Edition
English, French, Italian
Original language
Binding/ Material
Limited edition, Numbered edition, Signed by author, With slipcase
Number of pages
36×24 cm
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