Codex Seraphinianus, hands on review of new Rizzoli edition

I was so excited when I heard about this new print edition of the Codex Seraphinianus, I could not resist pre-ordering it. The Codex is an incredible, surreal, encyclopedia of a reality known only to Luigi Serafini... and maybe his cat.

I've wanted to physically handle a copy for ages. When Cory shared this illicitly available PDF version a few years back, I was hooked. Print copies were expensive! Then Xeni shared this interview over on Dangerous Minds with the Rizzoli publisher about a new edition-- I'd finally be able to own a copy for $75!

I spent a few weeks wondering what would it look like. Would the print be too cheap? Finally, it showed up!

Close-up to show paper texture

Rizzoli did a beautiful job. There is no question that every page of this book is an incredible work of art and this printing does it justice. The detail was really quite surprising to me. It looked far better to me than the files I've seen on the internet, the color of the inks are beautiful. The paper has a wonderful texture, is a solid weight and really displays the colors well. The experience of 'reading' over the Codex is a tactile one as well as visual and very, very cerebral. The image above attempts to display it.

Our prior posts share the story of Serafini and how he created, or transcribed, this incredibly alien but all too human text. I've spent more hours working out the numbering system and trying to understand the created code Serafini wrote the entire book in, than I have appreciating the fantastic artwork.

I'm a bit frustrated with the cover (pictured at the top), to be honest. It is of fine quality but not really as nice as I'd hoped. Its beige and just kinda fairly beige. I know the ladybugs are a well-known image from the very large body of work, but it just doesn't sit right with me. I do not know what I expect for $75 and maybe I'm just being unfair. This edition certainly holds a central spot in my cabinet of curiosities.

If you've long wanted a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus but were scared of the high prices, this is the edition for you.

Codex Seraphinianus, new Rizzoli edition

Notable Replies

  1. I know the faux codex is just supposed to be fanciful and fun, but as an amateur cryptologist the text jumped right out at me as, well, very uncreative. Way too many repetitions of the same (or slightly altered) word on most pages (via the Amazon "Search Inside" option, at least.)

    Cool illustrations though :smile:

  2. I expected someone to ask, either seriously, humorously or snarkily. I'm not going to go to the trouble of working up a frequency alphabet: I'm not that concerned, and from the heavy repetition I'm willing to bet that the words don't translate into anything (unless there are only 20 or so words real coded words used throughout the codex, instead of thousands.)

    I was just pointing out something I thought might be of interest.

  3. I have to agree with you about just how nice the paper is. It give each page just a little bit of heft.

  4. back in '87 i was in a travel abroad program in milano, and went to an art gallery opening that was featuring bread in art. i was intrigued with an illustration of a slanted table that allowed crumbs to roll off the table top.

    a few years later when visiting a used bookstore, i spotted a copy of an 1983 abbeville press edition of the codex, and immediately recognized the drawing style as being similar to that of the drawing from the bread art gallery. i spent what i thought was a lot for a used book($29.00) at the time, and have never regretted the purchase. love this book.

    it's sitting on the bookshelf next to albertus sebas' cabinet of natural curiosities.

  5. "Rizzoli did a beautiful job."

    I wish I could say the same. I bought myself the fancy-pancy limited edition version. It's signed and limited to 300 North American editions (600 worldwide) and comes in a fancy red box. Unfortunately, my red box was put together by a blind amputee with a stutter. The glue is showing and the whole box was constructed so-as to not close quite properly and has spots on it.

    I emailed the publisher, tweeted about it and haven't heard anything back from them at all. Who knows, maybe I've got a super valuable stamp-like misprint now. I doubt it.

    Have a look for yourself and let me know what you think.

    However, the book is amaziballs!

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