Codex Seraphinianus

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Another victim of the mundanification of the unknown. I should know-- I scanned in the whole thing myself.

If I have one quibble with the Calvino introduction, it is that it perhaps explains too much. To the list of influences and/or references, he adds the Botanica Parallela of Leo Lionni, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, “Bruno Munari and the entire line of inventors of crazy machines.” He too notices the visual resonance of the hieroglyphics on the would-be Rosetta stone with the little creatures he refers to as the “polychromatic corpuscles” from the early part of the book. Maybe “they constitute again another alphabet,” he writes, “more mysterious and more archaic.” And maybe they do, but any readers who read his introduction would have spoiled for themselves the fun of discovering (or not discovering) that fact on their own.
Of course the same charge could potentially be leveled against this essay. Maybe this isn’t so much like a Borges story after all. As the internet and other technologies continue to forward the process that Paul Virilio correctly—if rather a bit hysterically—refers to as “the pollution of distances,” one notable side effect is the obsolescence of proximity. Forget the years that the European alchemists of old would have spent copying over their heresies, in secret and by hand, and then the subsequent crisis of dissemination. When Delphine decided to send S.E. the Calvino introduction, she didn’t even have to go to a copy shop or buy a stamp. She took digital pictures of the pages of her book and emailed the jpegs clear across the world. It is an instance, I think, of real-life alchemy, which always wanted to be a science more than a religion. Technology bends and exploits those laws of nature it cannot break.
Here’s why I don’t have much guilt about spoiling your potentially “innocent” discovery of the Codex Seraphinianus. First, you could just as easily have been “spoiled” by any of the websites that have posted their favorite Codex images (hell, I sometimes use one for my MySpace profile) or logs of attempts to decipher it. Second, if you want to really see what the Codex is all about, you’ll have to put this magazine down and go find a copy of the book, because all the exegeses in the world have got nothing on the book itself. Few things in this world, if any, are discovered by pure, happy accident in a state of unadulterated solitude. Like a big brother offering you a first puff off a joint, if I didn’t turn you on to it, somebody else was probably going to (see also: Joel, Billy: “Sooner or later it comes down to fate / I might as well be the one”).

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