The Codex Seraphinianus is one of the strangest artistic masterworks known to man. Created by one Luigi Serafini, it was published in 1983 with an incredibly low print run (probably on one of those vanity labels like Manutius in Foucault's Pendulum). It is profusely illustrated in bright colors and incredible detail. The art very much resembles the work of the comic book artist Jim Woodring, with a little Bosch thrown in to give it some old-time religion.

Its claim to fame is that the text inside has never been deciphered. The text inside looks to be some strange mix of French cursive and crop circle ideograms. Worse yet, there appear to be detailed instructions (with illustrations) on how to decipher the language, with Serafini going so far as to provide a drawing of a Rosetta Stone, complete with three different languages. And no one has made any headway on deciphering the language.

The art inside (appears to be done in colored pencil, BTW) is incredibly complex. It features couples having sex merging to form crocodiles, rainbow-making machines, ruminations on the bifurication of tree branches, and some very Bosch-like people always melting or getting covered with amber or just plain evolving (or devolving) into new forms. It's too incredible to describe. It's bright and vivid without being cartoonish - in fact, the vibrancy of the drawings seems to convince you that this surreality is, in fact, reality, and that you've been dreaming everything else all along...

This book is one of the most compelling you'll ever see in your life. It's much too expensive to own, thanks to the small print run; it's been suggested that you find it at your local college library. The Library of Congress number is PN6381.S4 1983. If you do want to buy it, expect to pay at least $200. has been known to scare up the odd copy or two; search their website for instructions. The original publisher is Franco Maria Ricci, in Italy, and it was distributed in the States by Abbeville Press ( FMR is rumored to print up copies on demand, although for a very high fee.

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