RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
12 November 2007
CODEX SERAPHINIANUS by Luigi Serafini (Seraphianus)
CODEX SERAPHINIANUS. Franco Maria Ricci, Milan 1981.
Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 /£200 - £400
ART /IMAGINARY WORLDS/ EXPERIMENTAL
Other wordly encyclopaedia in an unknown, imaginary language describing an arcane system of fantastical knowledge. A masterpiece of fantasy painstakingly illustrating a non-existent world and written in a non-existent language which seems to be a surrealist parody of our own world and is also a pastiche of Diderot's Encyclopaedia and illustrated antiquarian books of the 16th century and earlier. Created by Luigi Serafini, 'globetrotter and architect,' historian and gastronomer, set and costume designer, an industrial designer,a potter and a painter, and a writer of stories and articles. Also worked on design of Fellini's last film 'La Voce della Luna.' The book covers such topics as gardening, anatomy, mathematics, geometry, hairstyles, cards, flying machines, transport, chemical analyses, labyrinths, Babel, costumes, foods... Talking of Babel the intro is by Italo Calvino who proposes a deciphering machine - an idea regarded with amusement by Il Serafino. Great stuff - probably inspired by all the kerfuffle around the mysterious but probably fake Voynich Manuscript. Sometimes wrongly spelled Codex Seraphianus or Codex Serafini of Codex Serafianus...
VALUE? A book that used to be easily found and I wish I had kept a few. All editions, even latish reprints, seem to command at least a $100, the first US was by Abbeville in 1983 hard now to get at less than $250 and often more, but not scarce. There are about 6 different language editions, one of the few books where it doesn't matter too much. These came out in 1993 and were limited to 5000 some signed and go for $400+.
Finally the 1981 2 vol Italian FMR ed which sits on the web currently at $1800 with another at a vertiginous $5K (signed). Wacky book, wacky price. Stories of later eds going for a few hundred on ebay, ex lib and beat copies less. STOP PRESS. Initially posted Jan 07, since then the $5K one has disappeared and there are 2 signed ones of the 1981 edition limited to 4000 copies each in clamshell boxes at a steep $4000 and an equally decent one at $2000. Some unreconstructed dealers are still trying for $3500 + for the 1993 edition (available easily at minus $500) one with the shouted description '...beyond rare--a true cult classic in it's ultimate form::::::::::OVER-THE-TOP ===LIMITED EDITION. FINE CONDITION. CLOTH COVERED CLAMSHELL BOX HOLDS THE MAGNIFICENTLY HARDBOUND BOOK. BOARDS OF VOLUME ARE CLOTH COVERED, GILT, EMBOSSED AND HAS A GRAPHIC AFFIXED. SHOCKING REPRODUCTION QUALITY...' Shocking , I guess, is a good thing in the counter intuitive world of web bookselling; from here it sounds like 'appalling.' [ W/Q *** ]