A 360-Page Book That No One’s Ever Been Able to Read Is Coming Back Into Print | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
September 2014  magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

A 360-Page Book That No One’s Ever Been Able to Read Is Coming Back Into Print

Original editions of the Codex sell for up to $2,000, but a new reprint is available for $125

smithsonian.com

First edition copies of “the world’s weirdest book.” Photo: Carl Guderian

In 1981, a peculiar book was published under the name Codex Seraphinianus. This translates from Latin into “Serafani’s book,” referring to its creator, Italian artist and designer Luigi Serafini. Serafini’s 360-page-long book (sometimes divided into two volumes) was full of strange, dream-like sketches accompanied by text in what appears to be a made-up, squiggly alphabet. AbeBooks describes it:

Essentially an encyclopedia about an alien world that clearly reflects our own, each chapter appears to deal with key facets of this surreal place, including flora, fauna, science, machines, games and architecture. It’s difficult to be exact because no-one has ever understood the contents page.

Philologists and lay readers alike viewed the book’s code as a challenge, but over the years, everyone who tried failed to decipher the text. Only the page number system has ever been worked out.

Today, original editions of the Codex sell for up to $2,000. But thanks to a thriving underground fan base, the Codex is now being revived, with new printings on sale for $125, New York Magazine reports. In an interview with Dangerous Minds, Serafini’s publicist said that the new version will include two chapters of new drawings and a 22-page “Decodex” that explains how Serafini envisioned the work, including “the crucial help he had in this from a white cat.”

The Decodex will not, however, provide answers about what the Codex actually means. Serafani seems to doubt anyone ever will crack that puzzle, precisely because he insists that it means nothing. “The writing of the Codex is a writing, not a language, although it conveys the impression of being one. It looks like it means something, but it does not,” he said several years back, according to New York. For fans, however, even the author’s assurance that the language is meaningless is not a reliable enough reason to stop them from trying to extract the Codex’s secrets.

More from Smithsonian.com:

One of the World’s Oldest Bibles Is Now Online  
In Honor of Wikipedia’s Near Completion, Here Are Its Most Awesomely Weird Entries 

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus