A couple having sex metamorphoses into a crocodile. Fish eyes from some weird creature float on the surface of the sea, staring at me. A man is riding his own coffin. Text accompanies these surreal images, handwritten, seemingly ancient but totally unintelligible. I’ve just stepped into the bizarre universe of Codex Seraphinianus, the weirdest encyclopedia in the world.
Like a guide to an alien world, Codex Seraphinianus is 300 pages of descriptions and explanations for an imaginary existence, all in its own unique (and unreadable) alphabet, complete with thousands of drawings and graphs. Issued for the first time in 1981 by publisher Franco Maria Ricci, it has been a collector’s favorite for years, before witnessing a sudden rise in popularity thanks to a growing fandom on the Internet. Now a new-and-improved edition from Italian publisher Rizzoli is about to hit bookshelves on Oct. 29, with 3,000 pre-ordered copies already sold out. The Codex attracts a new generation of fans, people who grew up surfing the net and eager to explore the exciting and relentless world outside, as bizarre as it is depicted in the book.