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Literature / Codex Seraphinianus

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An encyclopedia of an alternate reality or an imaginary world made by Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini.

The book is an encyclopedia in manuscript with copious hand-drawn colored-pencil illustrations of bizarre and fantastical flora, fauna, anatomies, fashions, and foods.

The book is divided into eleven chapters, partitioned into two sections. The first section appears to describe the natural world, dealing with flora, fauna, and physics. The second deals with the humanities, the various aspects of human life: clothing, history, cuisine, architecture and so on. Each chapter seems to treat a general encyclopedic topic. The topics of each separate chapter are as follows:

  • The first chapter describes many types of flora: strange flowers, trees that uproot themselves and migrate, etc.
  • The second chapter is devoted to the fauna of this world, depicting many animals that are surreal variations of the horse, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, birds, etc.
  • The third chapter deals with what seems to be a separate kingdom of odd bipedal creatures.
  • The fourth chapter deals with something that seems to be physics and chemistry, and is by far the most abstract and enigmatic.
  • The fifth chapter deals with bizarre machines and vehicles.
  • The sixth chapter explores the general humanities: biology, sexuality, various aboriginal peoples, and even shows examples of plant life and tools (such as pens and wrenches) grafted directly into the human body.
  • The seventh chapter is historical. It shows many people (some only vaguely human) of unknown significance, giving their times of birth and death. It also depicts many scenes of historical (and possibly religious) significance. Also included are examples of burial and funereal customs.
  • The eighth chapter depicts the history of the Codex's alien writing system.
  • The ninth chapter deals with food, dining practices, and clothing.
  • The tenth chapter describes bizarre games (including playing cards and board games) and athletic sports.
  • The eleventh chapter is devoted entirely to architecture.

Enjoy the Mind Screw.

Codex Seraphinianus features examples of:

  • Animorphism: Two pages show a couple having sex that gradually metamorphoses into a crocodile.
  • Bilingual Bonus: No, not the language of the book, which the authors says is meaningless. Within the book, though, there are illustrations of a man writing in French in cursive in chapter 6.
  • Mind Screw: Intentionally so. The artist says the book is meant to emulate the confusion an extremely young child experiences when they come across something like an illustrated encyclopedia: They can discern that it holds some sort of significance to the adults around them, but not in the slightest what that significance is.
  • Starfish Language: While the writing itself is just wiggles, the Codex Seraphinianus assures in the eighth chapter that the text itself is capable of influencing reality beyond its abstract meaning. Or something.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: It was inspired by the Voynich manuscript and is sometimes confused with it.