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Codex Seraphinianus

November 3, 2013

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I was in high school when I first read about Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus in Douglas Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas, and I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. It is a mysterious intrusion from an alternate reality, an encyclopaedic tome written in a non-existent language and lavishly illustrated with surreal images and enigmatic diagrams. After dreaming about it for a few years I finally got around to borrowing a copy through an inter-library loan. I was not disappointed, but I was surprised to realize that I had seen it before, lying flat on a bottom shelf of the public library where I spent a significant part of my youth. I’m not sure whether it was still there at the time I read about it, maybe it had been culled or stolen by then, but in any case I never made the connection. I’m not sure I even opened that library copy; I think I may have been vaguely afraid of it. It is, in retrospect, pretty impressive that the public library had such a strange, rare, and expensive book.

But not so rare and expensive anymore. A new edition has just been released and you can order it through Amazon for 76– no, now it’s gone up to 84– dollars. If I were not jobless and frighteningly close to destitution I would certainly buy a copy now, and as it is will probably steal one later. It is among the most beautiful and wondrous art books ever made. I believe the whole thing is available for viewing on the internet, but it only properly exists — hesitantly, as if suspended between two worlds — in bound pages. Consider getting a copy of your own.

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