Codex Seraphinianus

Codex Seraphinianus
Codex Seraphinianus (Click to enlarge)
The book opposite is called Codex Seraphinianus, after Luigi Serafini, an Italian architect and graphic designer, who wrote and illuminated it in the 1970s. It is an encyclopedia guide that depicts and explains a totally fantastic world, where lovers transform into crocodiles and rainbows can be bow tied.
One page of the Codex (trees)
The Codex is well structured, as any encyclopedia would be. It is divided into eleven chapters with many brightly coloured illustrations. The first chapter deals with the flora of the alien world, the second one with its fauna, and so on.
As a whole, it is a coherent, constantly creative work. Writing is present throughout the book, in the paragraphs, tables of contents, captions of pictures. Only... you cannot read one word, because Serafini used a fluid cursive writing he has invented and nobody has been able to decipher.
We don't know in fact if the pretty curly squiggle we see all over the book is actually a writing, or... just squiggle. We only know that the number system in which page numbers are written does have a meaning: it has been cracked as being  base-21.
The Codex's Rosetta Stone
Every chapter of the Codex Seraphinianus is amazing but I love the eighth one especially. It depicts the history of the alien writing system used in the book, with the help of a Rosetta Stone... that is of little help because the languages displayed on the stone are not languages that we know, but a mysterious glyph language... and the 'usual' Codex language!
While I was skimming through the plates the other day, I felt as if I was going through a museum dedicated to some unknown civilisation.
Also, I was like a kid who cannot read yet: I had to rely on the pictures to understand the rules of such a foreign world and imagine what the text might tell. It made me think that babies may well feel about the same when they discover the incomprehensible world they have been suddenly thrown into.

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