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March 20, 2007 9:17 AM   Subscribe

The Codex Seraphinianus, that rare and amazing volume, has been scanned in high-res glory and posted to Flickr. If you are lucky enough to afford it, copies are available. Previously.
posted by suckerpunch (59 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite
This is a copyright violation, but given the rarity of the volume, and the fact that any scan will doubtless pale compared to actually owning and browsing the volume, I decided to go ahead and post this.

And if anyone knows of a public copy in the Bible Belt, please say. The University of Texas supposedly had a copy years back, but when I was there, no catalogue listed it.
posted by suckerpunch at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2007

At Moe's Books in Berkeley around 1987 they had a sale table with a big stack of Codexes for $40 each. And I couldn't afford even one.

Here's a couple of essays about the Codex by Douglas Hofstadter and Italo Calvino. (Pardon the self-link; I couldn't find another source of the Calvino online with a quick google.)
posted by moonmilk at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2007

Wow, very cool. It's like a picture version of Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String.
posted by Hubajube at 9:47 AM on March 20, 2007

Incredibly, my local library (system) actually has it. I wonder if it's available for ILL.
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on March 20, 2007

See also How I Found the Codex by the inimitable misteraitch.
posted by OmieWise at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2007

Hey, thanks OmieWise: it can't be all that rare as rare books go, given that the first edition ran to 4000 copies, and (I think) there have been another two FMR editions since then, not counting the Abbeville ed. Also, there's a new 'budget' edition (well 85 Euros) published in Italy by Rizzoli last year. It's still an incredibly cool book though.
posted by misteraitch at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2007

Oh, hey, I wasn't sure how much you read MF these days.
posted by OmieWise at 9:58 AM on March 20, 2007

It was rare (given demand) back in '99, but I know that there have been a few reprintings since then. Still, $400 for a used copy is still way over my budget.
posted by suckerpunch at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2007

It took me forever, but I scored a copy decades ago, still have it in fine condition. Possibly the best conversation-starter coffee table book evar.
posted by sidereal at 10:19 AM on March 20, 2007

It sounds a great deal like an attempt to create a latter-day Voynich Manuscript, a book even rarer and even more mysterious.
posted by Hogshead at 10:49 AM on March 20, 2007

It sounds a great deal like an attempt to create a latter-day Voynich Manuscript, a book even rarer and even more mysterious.
posted by Hogshead at 10:50 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm weirded out now.
posted by JHarris at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2007

By the way, someone claims to have deciphered the text, and the numbering system.
posted by bshort at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Very cool. Thanks suckerpunch (and moonbird and misteraitch).
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on March 20, 2007

posted by delmoi at 11:26 AM on March 20, 2007

oh wow.
posted by delmoi at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2007

Aaaaah! Aaaah!

suckerpunch, you ... have made my day to the point of a nigh-manic episode.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:30 AM on March 20, 2007

wow. coolest thing ever.

I think i am going to end up blowing the $325 on this.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:35 AM on March 20, 2007

Wow, thanks for this. I've wanted a Codex for a few years now, really bad... had it on my Amazon wishlist and everything. No-one's taken me up on it yet.

Love the e e cummings title of the post, too!
posted by Paragon at 11:46 AM on March 20, 2007

I read about the Voynich Manuscript a few months ago, Hogshead. Strange stuff! Unfortunately, I think it's destined to be one of those great unsolved mysteries, like the fate of Amelia Earhart or the Croatoan engima.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 11:54 AM on March 20, 2007

allegedly there was a new Italian edition for 89 euros, published in 2006. But I'll be damned if i can find it online.

Anyone have any ideas?
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:57 AM on March 20, 2007

You can try scrolling up.
posted by vacapinta at 11:58 AM on March 20, 2007

Why was I never made aware of this wonderful thin 'til now?
posted by lekvar at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2007

Got it!! $93!
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:03 PM on March 20, 2007

allegedly there was a new Italian edition for 89 euros, published in 2006. But I'll be damned if i can find it online.

I found it for sale, but shipping it to the US isn't cheap--something like 33 euros.
posted by Prospero at 12:05 PM on March 20, 2007

duh someone already linked it.

there's the link to order it directly anyway, which i was able to do without speaking any Italian.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:05 PM on March 20, 2007

posted by Prospero at 12:06 PM on March 20, 2007

bshort, thanks for the decipherment links!
posted by sidereal at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2007

Productivity... circling... drain. Thanks, suckerpunch. And to answer your request re: copies in the bible belt, there are several.
posted by cog_nate at 12:49 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks suckerpunch! This are hours/days/months/years of enjoyment in this. There goes my photo editing for this evening!
posted by algreer at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2007

The Codex is one of those books that redefines what you mean by "book".

How I got my copy: my buddy Eric, a book-lover in the extreme, dragged me out of work early one day so we could go up to the top floor of the NYU library to see their copy. This must have been back in '89 or '90. Without the dust jacket, there was almost no English text to be found, so the experience was particularly pure and life-changing. I hunted for it for years, and eventually scored one from a used bookstore in Manhattan that was going out of business... The price is still written in pencil on the second page: $35.00.


Thanks for sharing the photos. The rest of you, try to get your hands on the real thing, so you can read it cover to cover!
posted by otherthings_ at 1:06 PM on March 20, 2007

From misteraitch's post linked above:

Years passed, and sporadically I would think about the Codex, and suffer some pang of craving for it, until there came a point when, after an implausible chain of events, I was offered a job in Rome. Part of my rationale when I accepted this offer was that yes, I stand a better chance of finding this book there than I do here. This in relation to an object I had only read about, never seen.

I too found out about this from the Hofstadter column. I used to be a regular and fantical reader of Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column. When he decided to retire, they replaced him with Hofstadter. Actually, "replaced" is the wrong word doubly so. Nobody could replace Gardner and, as I soon discovered, nobody could replace Hofstadter. Even the name of his new column "Metamagical Themas" was of course an anagram of "Mathematical Games."

In any case, the quote above reminds me of how those of us who crave and seek unusual things and how it was in the pre-Internet age. I'd ravage yard sales and bookstores for old magazines, out-of-print books. I'd phone libraries and booksellers across the U.S. and across the world inquiring about some book you saw mentioned in a footnote.

Now of course there are a million websites devoted to any particular topic. But I still miss those days when it all seemed like a vast treasure hunt with paper trails which would suddenly die only to rejuvenate themselves a year later, hunts interspersed with those awe-struck moments when you found and then held that sought object in the back of a library or in the dusty basement of a bookshop.
posted by vacapinta at 1:23 PM on March 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

*cough* FlickrDown lets you grab an entire photostream at the highest resolution with a single click. *cough*
posted by Rhomboid at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2007

posted by Sticherbeast at 2:47 PM on March 20, 2007

wow. I thought I was done getting tattoos, but I guess not.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:56 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

For those who don't know what this book is, but have scrolled this far down, here's at least the Wikipedia article on the matter.
posted by Atreides at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2007

Excellent news.

Would-be deciphers should note that these scans are made on an A4 or Letter-sized scanner, and therefore are missing the page numbers, which are printed at the bottom of each page. The Codex pages are foolscap-sized, with a very large top and bottom margin.

I've put up a B&W scan of the bottom of each page (made by a friend-of-a-friend) on rapidshare. It should also be easier to cut out the glyphs from this scan, if someone wants to make a font (which might be a hard task, as all the glyphs in each word are joined). Could someone with flickr posting privileges kindly post this link in the comments to this article, too?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2007

I've got a first edition here, right on my lap this very moment. Yes, it's THAT good. I'd never sell it. My precious.
posted by Baldons at 4:45 PM on March 20, 2007

Ahh, I was just thinking of this the other day. Great to have it on Flickr.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2007

It's been on various peer to peer sites for quite a long time now, if that's the way you roll.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:57 PM on March 20, 2007

A small nod, please, to Franco Maria Ricci, whose publishing house brought us this creation. Among his earlier efforts was a republication of the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert, from which the codex is a pretty natural leap. He still produces small runs of exquisitely crafted books, highly sought after by certain collectors. (Also fun in an overpriced but magnificently produced way is FMR, "the most beautiful magazine in the world".)

Good to know there are still people like that out there.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh my. I don't covet much, but I covet this. Wonderful post, suckerpunch -- thank you.
posted by melissa may at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2007

Wow. I'll admit I had no idea this existed until this post, but now I want a copy. What a cool and weird book. Thanks for posting this!
posted by kosher_jenny at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2007

That is... gorgeous. Wow. And oddly enough, I've seen a mural of the image on the page after the title page, and wondered where it came from. Now I know. I wish that I could justify buying the "cheap" Italian edition...
posted by ubersturm at 6:10 PM on March 20, 2007

Excellent post and comments. Thank you all.

I too always associate in my mind Seraphinianus and the Voynich manuscripts mentioned above, cryptography and surrealist botanical paintings. Superb.
posted by carmina at 6:23 PM on March 20, 2007

suckerpunch + Rhomboid + ~ 2 min @ 600KB/sec = my own digital copy.

posted by HyperBlue at 6:31 PM on March 20, 2007

Wow. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by griphus at 6:38 PM on March 20, 2007

It's so cool to see folks discovering the Codex for the first time. If you love it, you *will* own one eventually. This image was always one of my faves.
posted by mediareport at 7:52 PM on March 20, 2007

Very neat, but at the risk of sounding stupid - I don't get it.
posted by Vindaloo at 8:12 PM on March 20, 2007

Imagine an encyclopedia from another world dropped into our own: not only new information, but new ways of representing information, cryptic but clearly internally consistent. Imagine that we do not have the tools to completely understand (and encapsulate) it, but find ourselves fumbling around the edge, being offered tantalising glimpses at an alien way of approaching an alien experience. It's like a song in a foreign key, or a cryptogram eternally unsolved. The essence of the Codex Seraphinianus is mystery, but with the belief that such a mystery could have a solution, an explanation, if only we pushed a little harder or went a little further.

Of course, it's easy to burst such a tenuous bubble by pointing out the authorship and obvious artificiality of the mystery. But such is the suspension of disbelief.
posted by Paragon at 8:19 PM on March 20, 2007

suckerpunch, you've brightened my life.
posted by hippugeek at 9:15 PM on March 20, 2007

Despair! FlickrDown is giving an error message on it now.
posted by JHarris at 2:12 AM on March 21, 2007

Wow. This taught me I can't even *look* at stuff at Flickr without having a yahoo id. Those fascists. Oh well, at least bitemeflickr wasn't taken, so I registered it.

Now I have to find a new photo site. Anything that sucks less than Flickr and will let me make photos public so that people don't have to get a fucking id just to see them?
posted by beth at 7:27 AM on March 21, 2007

Here's a megaupload link for the whole set (149 MB) if you can't get FlickrDown working.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:30 AM on March 21, 2007

Never mind I must have fucked something up. Still pissed though. Don't think I can trust them.
posted by beth at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2007

In 1987, remaindered copies of this were available from Publisher's Central Bureau for $25. Every couple of years I think about selling my copy. Then I look through it and decide I want to keep it.
posted by maurice at 9:33 AM on March 21, 2007

For some strange reason I am reminded of both Jeff Mangum and Han Hoogerbrugge.

I had never heard of this before. Thank you so much for posting.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:23 AM on March 21, 2007

Thanks for the link Rhomboid! Took me a while to figure out how to download (the page was in Japanese for some reason?), but worked okay once I got through.
posted by JHarris at 11:12 PM on March 21, 2007

i don't get it - it looks like an heirloom vegetable catalogue made by somebody who can't draw.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:25 AM on March 24, 2007

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