Imagine writing and illustrating a book so bizarre (but intriguing) that decades later people are still drawn to it and NO ONE has been able to decode the secret language you made up, nor are they able to understand what your mind boggling illustrations mean?! Hey that’s a feat, eh? Look at one of the many illustrations in this book:
Go ahead, tip your computer sideways. Study this…It is beyond comprehension. Could it be it was meant to be quite delightful nonsense or is there so much more to this?
I’ve thought many thoughts about this mystery book…Here are a few ideas:
The art and “gibberish language” of a mentally ill genius?
The meanderings of an artistic mind high on drugs?
A person who received something profound, like the meaning of life itself, from an unknown spiritual source?
Well let me tell you a little more about this and then you speculate. The book is called the codex seraphinianus. It’s about 370 pages and it’s written in a weird indecipherable language. What we DO know about it: The author took 30 months to complete it, sometime in the 1970’s. He was named Luigi Serafini. Interesting aside: The man’s last name translates to seraphs in Italian, which is a noun meaning: an angelic being, regarded in traditional Christian angelology as belonging to the highest order of the ninefold celestial hierarchy, associated with light, ardor, and purity. I’ll say this– he did have mad skills. The guy was an (Italian) architect. He was also an illustrator; and an industrial designer. That’s his background. Check these out:
Madman or Suess-inspired genius?
Apparently there were 5,000 copies of the original 1981 work… these are considered well-preserved volumes. It’s been republished on four occasions, first in a 1983 English language edition; then in English, Spanish, and French editions in the 1990’s, each again limited to 5000 copies; and finally in a more widely printed 2006 edition. Personally I think the author’s name Luigi Serafini, should be on his work but no, this picture shows a Franco Maria Ricci on the front cover. He’s an Italian publisher best known for FMR, an art magazine published in Italian, English, German, French and Spanish. Mario is known for publishing limited editions honoring particular independent artists, which are characterized by their tinted handmade paper, and black silk-bound hardcovers with silver or gold lettering stamping. Okay, great but who IS the mysterious Luigi Serafini?
Just look at the glint in his eyes! Yes, Luigi is still alive, aged 64 as of this writing (October 2013) but he remains tight-lipped about his creation. Only he knows what his book means, if indeed it’s supposed to mean anything. If the language is never deciphered, that gives the book greater meaning in a sense…because it may well imply there IS no translation. We can view his work and translate what we see and feel into our own meanings and isn’t that the truest and purest form of art as communication?
In a rare interview he said the following which I have translated from his native Italian into English:
“I see the stars fly out here in this door, I suggest some considerations (cum sideribus), aided by this exquisite wine and … congratulations for these beautiful goblets beryllium in the typical style Alpha-Centauri!
Then … waters broke and I was born to 10.30, Oceanic Time August 4, 1949 in the house of my grandmother by Cassiodorus 1, Prati district in the Earth city of Rome. It was an ordinary day for the sparrows (Passer Italiae) who had nested like every year among the trees overlooking the elementary school Umberto 1. But it was not for my mother and for me either, that I was suddenly breathing a strange mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and atmospheric dust. I did not know it yet, but I was beginning to exist for me and for others, and in fact I was immediately weighed. A symbolic beginning of my interaction with the laws of universal gravitation, he thought my father an engineer, but soon after was seized by doubt why, if in the universe nothing is created and nothing is destroyed, the total weight of the planet, in spite of my birth, could not be changed to an ounce … and thought that for the same reason at some point I would have to leave the place. A little ‘was displeased with himself, a little with Newton, and went into the kitchen to drink greedily a yoga Massalombarda.”
Alrighty then! The poetic ambience I would’ve expected! Surely you’ve heard of the Voynich manuscript? That particular book is SO eerily similar to Luigi’s… Just check out the as yet undeciphered untranslatable language and illustrations so like Luigi’s:
There is a big difference however between the two manuscripts. For one, I don’t think Luigi even knew of the Voynich’s manuscript’s existence. Here’s the info available on wiki:
“The book has been carbon dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and may have been composed in Italy in the Renaissance period. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a book dealer who purchased it in 1912. The pages of the codex are vellum. Some of the pages are missing, but about 240 remain. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Many people have speculated that the writing might be nonsense. However, in 2013, Marcelo Montemurro of the University of manchester and Damian Zanette of the Bariloche Atomic Centre published a paper documenting their identification of a semantic pattern in the writing; this suggests that the Voynich manuscript is a ciphertext with a message. The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World Wars One and Two. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The mystery of the meaning and origin of the manuscript has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript the subject of novels and speculation. None of the many hypotheses proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified. The Voynich manuscript was donated by Hans P. Kraus to Yale University‘s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1969, where it is catalogued under call number MS 408. A digitized high-resolution copy is also accessible freely at their website.”
I don’t live far from there! But I digress. I derive many ideas from the similarities between these two amazing books. I share here:
It is highly unlikely this Italian Luigi Serafini who wrote his book in the 1970’s had access to the 15th century Voynich find…He couldn’t have gotten it online, because there WAS no online in the 1970’s.
Had he heard about it? Chances are good that he did. He lived in Italy after all and would’ve been abreast on art since that was his livelihood and his passion. But given even that I just don’t feel he could’ve readily accessed the Voynich manuscript. Was he inspired by it? I believe he was. OR
dare I speculate that both the unknown creator of the Voynich work and Luigi Serafini BOTH received influence from a profound and intelligent highly spiritual source?
Wherever the answers lie, the Voynich Manuscript is a conundrum, the author/illustrator unknown and the language appears to have some pattern to it…As for Luigi, I’d love to have a copy of his codex seraphinianus.
I’d be perusing those volumes all the time.
If nonsense wakes the brain cells as Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess) says, well then I’d note: Even Dr. Suess used nonsense to enlighten. The “stars upon thars” in his “Sneeches on Beaches” symbolize the ones Jews wore. I can go on, but deciphering Suess is not the subject of this particular blog so I’ll close with one more Serafini illustration and these words: Perhaps like Suess, Luigi’s codex seraphinianus is deep too. Thanks for your genius Luigi. You’re a person I’d be honored to share companionable silence…Unless of course you’d like to chat?
This blog written by Kimberly, author of Under The Banana Moon which is reduced for Christmas gift giving: http://www.amazon.com/Under-Banana-Moon-Living-Aspergers/dp/1469985144/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
Check out Under the banana Moon’s new official website: http://mercurygirl49.wix.com/underthebananamoon-1
NOTE: If you’re an artist drop me a line. I’d love to interview you here.
If these photos are not in public domain, pls contact me. I respectfully post them because I’m inspired by them and wish to inspire others. I will certainly give credit