The Codex Seraphinianus is a book written and illustrated by the Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini during thirty months, from 1976 to 1978. The book is approximately 360 pages long (depending on edition), and appears to be a visual encyclopedia of an unknown world, written in one of its languages, a perhaps undecipherable alphabetic writing.
The Codex is divided into eleven chapters, partitioned into two sections. The first section appears to describe the natural world, dealing with flora, fauna, and physics. The second deals with the humanities, the various aspects of human life: clothing, history, cuisine, architecture and so on. Each chapter seems to treat a general encyclopedic topic: incredibily strange flora, far-out fauna, bizarre physics and mechanics, biological discharges, technological possibilities, architectural wonders, local funeralogy, scriptural intricacies, eating techniques, and what not. Imagine the Moebius Twins illustrating ethnographic notes by Lewis Carroll, a Jonathan Swift travelogue of Hoffman's Peninsula, or Borges turned Gazetteer.
The writing system (possibly a false one) appears to be modelled on ordinary Western-style writing systems (left-to-right writing in rows; an alphabet with uppercase and lowercase letters, some of which double as numerals) but is much more curvilinear, not unlike cursive Georgian in appearance. Some letters appear only at the beginning or at the end of words, a feature shared with Semitic writing systems. The language of the codex has defied complete analysis by linguists for decades. The number system used for numbering the pages, however, is said to have been cracked (independently) by Allan C. Wechsler and Bulgarian linguist Ivan Derzhanski, among others. It is allegedly a variation of base 21.
Commenting on the Codex, Douglas Hofstadter observed: "Many of the pictures are grotesque and disturbing, but others are extremely beautiful and visionary. The inventiveness that it took to come up with all these conceptions of a hypothetical land is staggering. Some people with whom I have shared this book find it frightening or disturbing in some way. It seems to them to glorify entropy, chaos, and incomprehensibility. There is very little to fasten onto; everything shifts, shimmers, slips. Yet the book has a kind of unearthly beauty and logic to it, qualities pleasing to a different class of people: people who are more at ease with free-wheeling fantasy and, in some sense, craziness. I see some parallels between musical composition and this kind of invention. Both are abstract, both create a mood, both rely largely on style to convey content."
freak-out [358 pages; 150 mb]