Book to Read – Codex Seraphinianus

There is quite a lot to this book, the creation of it, and its reception. Much of this I am not able to reveal for reasons that would be very apparent if you were to read it. Codex Seraphinianus is written by Luigi Serafini who is an architect and designer, who pulled this book together in 1981. Very few copies are available, and what exists is extremely expensive, even for Amazon Books, hovering around $500 a copy.

There are quite a bit of illustrations and design to this book that is as much stunning as it is fascinating. At points along the way, this is considered to be Asemic writing or writing without words. There are illustrations that will harken you back to Dali and other surrealists, and the design of the book is meant to pair together both the visual arts and the lack of verbal/textual/lexicographal language.

The book covers a variety of topics including physics, flora/fauna, food, games architecture, history, and so on. There is a system to the writing, much like a Western writing system (left to right, upper/lower case). The author once gave a talk at the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles where he expressed that the intent and design of the book was to express a child’s view of books and what is contained in them before a child is able to read or at least read on the level that most books require. The result? The Codex is a fantastic hallucination to adults, but the standard make believe of children before the begin to understand the systems and structures by which we understand the world.

I was made aware of this book through a discussion at work with our boutique marketing design agency who used this book to help us break out of conventional concepts of design and to think more creatively about how to visually express our brand in new ways, rather than steal from current design. Ultimately, the Codex was very helpful in getting our minds to a good place.