Arts & Entertainment

My Love-Hate Relationship with the Codex Seraphinianus

April 15, 2017

Everyone has those items that they genuinely can’t get enough of. Not so much in an obsessive kind of way, but where any time you have the opportunity to utilize that idea or object or even just focus your attention on it, you know you’re going to be finding some joy. For me the list of things that do this for me might not be very long, but it’s certainly random. At the top: the Durance Summer Fig hand cream I got in Marseilles, golden yellow tufted velvet couches, and the Codex Seraphinianus.

I think I first came across the Codex Seraphinianus about seven years ago. It was during one of my crazy insomnia days in college when I would spend hours upon hours clicking through StumbleUpon. I’d somehow found my way to an article with a title something like “The Most Mysterious Books Ever Written” (and if you know anything about me, you know I’m not going to NOT read it). Don’t get me wrong, every book on that list was totally intriguing, but there was just something about this particular one that meant love at first sight for me.

flowers codex seraphinianus
First off, the images really speak for themselves, with pages upon pages of strange flora and fauna and processes ranging from the totally beautiful to super unsettling. And then there was the language, with each character and word as bizarre as the illustrations they showed up beside. According to the article I was reading, linguists had been trying to decipher the alchemistic words ever since the book came out with absolutely zero luck.

Of course, these points really only lend themselves to making this a really intriguing book, not so much a mysterious one. What really put this publication on the map for me was that, though it was first published in 1981, no one had heard from the author, Luigi Serafini, since—nor had he left any explanation about this amazing creation. Plus, the books themselves were incredibly rare, as they never really make a whole lot of them. So, here you had this disquietingly gorgeous and beguiling unique book, with a “missing” author…that night I added owning a copy of this magical work to my bucket list.

eye fish codex seraphinianus
And so, my enchantment went on for the next few years. Any chance I got to introduce someone to the Codex you can bet I would take it. I think I went on a search to see if I could find a copy for less than $800 about once a week as well. It was actually on one of these hunts that I came across some incredibly upsetting information.

They were making more.

They would retail for $80.

You can purchase them just about anywhere, including places where you could purchase anything from groceries to tires.

And, finally, Luigi Serafini was back on the grid and giving interviews.

plant chair codex seraphinianus
It’s hard to describe just how wrong all of this felt. This was a unicorn for me, this was magic. You don’t sell unicorns at WalMart for $80. But what can one do?
In case you were wondering, I never did buy a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus, but I haven’t removed it from my list either. The book still remains an amazing piece of imagination and artistry, despite the mystery being taken away. I think I’d still love to get my hands on a first edition to add to my library one day, perhaps next to a copy of the Voynich manuscript.

Image Sources: Wired &

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