#8: Find the Codex Seraphinianus

My favorite book in the world is an encyclopedia of things which don’t exist.  The Codex Seriphinianus creates the trappings of a reference text in stunning detail—charts, graphs, categories, chapters, page numbers—but describes strange, bewildering and beautiful phenomenon not native to our world.  It is written in a curvilinear script with no known translation; the language may or not be meaningful, but researchers recently cracked its base-21 numbering system.

A picture of the Codex in my lap on the library floor

I first encountered the Codex during a college visit to an art library.  We were told to browse and report on random selections.  I received the Codex, and in some ways I’ve never put it down again, but I haven’t held a copy in years.  For my eighth adventure, I found it in the Boston Public Library.

I don’t have any pictures of the cover, but it’s plain enough: black fabric embossed with the title and nothing else.  The Boston Public Library’s copy contained a title page (spoiler alert: Luigi Serafini, an Italian architect, created the Codex in 1981), but I don’t recall the first having any sort of publishing information at all, nothing to indicate its authorship or purpose.

The Codex makes historical and linguistic jokes despite containing no recognizable words.  One illustration shows an archaeologist posing with his strange and arcane tools beside a cheeky allusion to the Rosetta Stone—the Codex’s language beside several others, none of which are remotely human.

I think what attracts me most about the codex is its familiarity.  I’m not familiar with horses whose rear legs are jewel-studded wagons, but I remember opening encyclopedias when all the knowledge inside was strange and new, and the Codex feels like that.

I must not be the only person who enjoys the spirit of this book, because tucked in the BPL’s copy was a note, partially in English, partially in the Codex‘s language:

Codex page with illustrations

I’m still working on my answer.  I’m afraid “Marry Me” would be off-topic.

If you’re interested in finding a copy near you (and I heartily recommend it), this WorldCat search is a good place to start: I’ve only seen the 1981 edition, but I can’t imagine any of them losing the overall effect.

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