12 November 2007

CODEX SERAPHINIANUS by Luigi Serafini (Seraphianus)

CODEX SERAPHINIANUS. Franco Maria Ricci, Milan 1981.

Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 /£200 - £400

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 *** ]


Unknown said...

I've never understood where all the copies of this went. A limitation of 5000 is hardly small for the original two volume FMR edition; and really shouldn't be scarce (are they all sat in a warehouse someplace, or what?).
As noted, the one vol reprints are not difficult to come by, in any of the languages it had the introduction in, but still sell well.

For the real rarity, you need to see his 'other' second book - Pulcinellopedia, and there are pictures and a small tale of finding it via an italian out of print website at: http://www.spamula.net/blog/archives/000182.html .. Sadly when I tried a similar hunt a year or two later, it was available but then on ordering was unobtainable. . .
Some wag has that plus the first FMR edition of the codex at 4000USD. Ouch.

Bookride said...

Thanks Al --I did'nt know the Pulcinellopedia - will add it to my hitlist--bloody useful info--you are right where did they all go?--I used to see alot of them--theres always about a dozen or more for sale on the net so I guess they are continually in sales flux, bit like Madonnas Sex book but holding the price better. Maybe some warehouse in Middle Europe has a might cache of the Codex and when discovered the price will tumble to $50! N

Anonymous said...

I had six copies. Tore the pages out to line the bottom of my gerbil cage.

Bookride said...

I guess its use as lining for pet's cages (it's that slick Ricci paper) might have caused its scarcity as Rick suggests - rather in the way that Egyptian Birds (King Penguin) is scarce because they used the plates for dinner mats or A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth is hard to find because it got used as a doorstop. N