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CODEX SERAPHINIANUS


William G. Martin Apr 22, 1994 11:20 AM
Posted in group: rec.arts.books

Here is the 1987 discussion of CODEX SERAPHINIANUS from the SF-Lovers mailing
list; I found it on a diskette where I had saved it.

I think those of you who have recently stated that it can now
only be found at prices like $250 - $350 will be particularly galled
to discover that it was being sold remaindered at $25 or so...

Note this is a 7-year-old discussion, so probably every e-mail
address in this is no longer valid. Don't expect to be able to
reach any of these people via e-mail.

Also, this is about 30K in length. You may not be that much interested... :-)

***BEGIN***
Date: Tue, 12 May 87 14:05:25 MDT
From: William G. Martin <WMartin@SIMTEL20.ARPA>
Subject: CODEX SERAPHINIANUS

Well, I received my long-backordered copy of CODEX SERAPHINIANUS
from Publishers Central Bureau yesterday.  Now, I know that at least
one other person out there has a copy of this -- it was a reference
to this book on SF-Lovers that caused me to notice it when it showed
up in one of the PCB catalogs -- and I have some queries that I hope
someone out there can answer about this.

(For the uninitiated, this book is a rather strange art work. It is
a several-hundred-page large-format book, entirely hand drawn in the
original (that is, no printed text, but all pages are drawn), mixing
colored illustrations with pages of text and captions, entirely in
an imaginary language, describing a completely alien world (except
that the inhabitants appear to be human in form). An extremely
surreal exercise, the book is a sort of encyclopedia describing this
world and its cultures.)

Author: Luigi Serafini Copyright 1983 Abbeville Press [I think --
I'm doing this from memory...]

Now, my queries:

1) I understand that the alien language in which this book is
written is actually a completely-worked-out real language; that is,
the mysterious squiggles are not just random marks, but could be
translated to real text.  Does anyone know if this is really another
language, or just a consistent transliteration of some ordinary
language, and, if so, what that language is?  (I suspect it would be
French; there is one drawing of a manlike creature with a pen as its
arm creating a page of text which is French in script -- I suspect
that this is a self-portrait of the artist, doing in the book's
society what he was doing in reality [that word gets a bit variable
in this context! :-)]; creating an alien culture. So I wonder if the
text might be really French in a simple substitution cipher -- this
funny squiggle means "a", that one means "b", and so on -- as
opposed to being an actual different language.)

2) In any case, is a translation into English avilable anywhere? I
realize that the book can be viewed as a wonderful puzzle, and
figuring out the meaning(s) is a lot of fun, but I neither have the
time nor am I up to the effort required. I'd like to cheat and buy a
crib sheet...

3) My copy came with the inclusion of an oddly-cut fragment of
photograph, perhaps cut from a calendar, with the number "031"
written on the back, stuck between the pages. Is this actually the
copy number, put in by the artist, indicating that this is copy 31
of <some number>? Or is it just a scrap of paper with no meaning?
(Or is it a message from an alien power so subtle and mysterious I
cannot interpret it?....  :-)

[If it is the real copy number, that certainly is odd. Why would
such a low number as "031" be remaindered? I don't know what this
cost when new, but its weird enough to have sold at least several
hundred copies no matter how much it was, just to the esoteric artsy
types...]

4) Can anyone point me to any reviews or commentaries or other
sources of information or discussions about this book or the artist?

Thanks much!

Will Martin
wmartin@almsa-1.arpa

------------------------------

Date: 13 May 87 10:41:07 GMT
From: seismo!sun!hoptoad!far...@RUTGERS.EDU (Mike Farren)
Subject: Re: CODEX SERAPHINIANUS

A friend has done considerable research on the book, and has found
that is is definitely NOT a simple transposition cipher on any known
language.  No matter what he tried he could not get the letter
ratios, specifically the "vowel"/ "consonant" ratios to come out
consistently and correctly.  Also, he managed to decipher the page
numbering scheme, and reports that it is in a very odd prime-number
variable base scheme (first level has seven symbols, second level
13, third 23, or something like that.)

>2) In any case, is a translation into English avilable anywhere?

Not that any of us have ever found (I have about five friends who
LOVE the book, including myself)

>4) Can anyone point me to any reviews or commentaries or other
>sources of information or discussions about this book or the artist?

Douglas Hofstadtler (who wrote Godel, Escher, Bach - a book I also
highly recommend) talked about the Codex in one of his Scientific
American columns "Metamagical Themas".  That's how I was turned on to it.

Mike Farren
hoptoad!farren

------------------------------

Date:     Mon, 18 May 87 13:01:14 CDT
From:     Will Martin -- AMXAL-RI  <wmartin@almsa-1>
Subject:  Re: Codex Seraphinianus

The Publishers Central Bureau stock # for Codex Seraphinianus is
475146. Price is $24.95.

Publishers Central Bureau
One Champion Avenue
Avenel, New Jersey 07131

I just spent lunchtime in the St. Louis Public Library looking for more
info on this book. They have the Codex itself in the art department, but
I could find no reference to reviews of the book, or articles about it
or the author, in any of the standard references or periodical indices.

Will Martin

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 27 May 87 15:09:11 cdt
From: Will Martin -- AMXAL-RI <wmartin@ALMSA-1.ARPA>
Cc: mcnc!rti!w...@RUTGERS.EDU
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus

In response to some mailed requests, and Bill Ingogly's posting that
appeared in SF-L Digest V12 #233:

The Publishers Central Bureau stock # for Codex Seraphinianus is 475146.
The price is $24.95 (original price was $75.00). (By the way, the original
copyright date was 1981, and the Abbeville Press edition is dated 1983.)

Publishers Central Bureau
One Champion Avenue
Avenel, New Jersey 07131

(I hadn't put this info in the original posting because:
1) The PCB address had just recently shown up on the list in the
context of a Prisoner video source.
2) Doesn't *everybody* already get these catalogs?!?! :-)

I just spent several lunchtimes in the St. Louis Public Library
looking for more info on this book. They have the Codex itself in
the art department, but I could find no reference to reviews of the
book, or articles about it or the author, in any of the standard
references or periodical indices, except a pointer in the *1984*
(not 1983) New York Times Index to what turned out to be a totally
worthless tiny one-paragraph "review" (really just a short
description of the book). [In case anyone is interested, to save you
the effort, that is Feb 12, 1984, Section 7, Page 20, Col. 2.]  I am
amazed that a reference like the "Art Index", for example, has
nothing about the book nor the author (except a pointer to an
article in "Domus" that refers to some other unrelated works by
him). How could such an artwork go so unremarked? Is it that it is
so strange and outre' that critics cannot think of anything to say
about it and therefore ignore it?

I also spent some time searching bound volumes and microfilm of
Scientific American, and just cannot find the Hofstadtler
"Metamagical Themas" column that discusses this book. Either I just
plain missed it, or the book is not referred to in the title of the
column, nor in the bibliography page at the rear of each issue
(which does contain references for other books mentioned in
Metamagical Themas). I did scan most of the text in any column which
seemed appropriate. Maybe this was another one of those two-sentence
references buried in amidst much other prose, like the NYT "review",
which will turn out not to be worth the effort of unearthing it? I
searched 1981 through the last of these columns, which terminated in
late '83, without finding the citation.

Anyway, I guess the Codex will have to be appreciated on its own,
without any guidance from published criticism or other
"authoritative" commentary. It is still somewhat surprising that
such an astounding book seems to have sunk from view without a
ripple of discussion...

Will Martin

------------------------------

Date: 28 May 87 14:50:44 GMT
From: seismo!kitty!sunybcs!ans...@RUTGERS.EDU (William Ansley)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus

>I also spent some time searching bound volumes and microfilm of
>Scientific American, and just cannot find the Hofstadtler
>"Metamagical Themas" column that discusses this book. Either I just
>plain missed it, or the book is not referred to in the title of the
>column, nor in the bibliography page at the rear of each issue
>(which does contain references for other books mentioned in
>Metamagical Themas).

You couldn't find the reference in Scientific American because there
is no reference to CS in any of Hofstadter's columns.  The reference
occurs in the *book* Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of
Mind and Pattern (Douglas R. Hofstadter, ISBN 0-553-34279-7) which
is a collection of all Hofstadter's SA columns and some other
material, with commentary and additional new material added to each
for the book.  The reference to CS is in a 'postscript' added to the
end of the reprinted December 1982 column entitled "Stuff and
Nonsense" on p.  229 of the large format softcover edition.

William H. Ansley
csnet:  ansley@buffalo.csnet
uucp:   ..!{allegra,decvax,watmath,rocksanne}!sunybcs!ansley
bitnet: ansley@sunybcs.bitnet
        csdansle@sunyabvc
usmail: Computer Science Dept.
        226 Bell Hall
        SUNYAB
        Buffalo, NY 14260

------------------------------

Date: Wed, 27 May 87 17:13:41 EDT
From: William Ingogly <w...@rti.rti.org>
To: ALMSA-1.ARPA!wmartin...@relay.cs.net
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus

Thanks loads for all the information on the Codex; I plan on
ordering it as soon as I get home!

It is indeed amazing that the book has been remaindered without
generating any discussion...I'm especially surprised that NO ONE has
reviewed it in an SF magazine (unless it was reviewed in some
obscure fanzine).

Bill

------------------------------

Date: Wed 3 Jun 87 15:02:36-PDT
From: Aline Norris <NOR...@stripe.sri.com>
Subject: Codex Seraphinianus Reviews

According to an online book review database, the CS was reviewed in
several places, although I cannot vouch for the quality of the
reviews.

1) Esquire Magazine, V 102 p260, Nov. 1984
2) NYT Book Review, V 89 p20, Feb. 12, 1984 (I think this was
   already mentioned as being a short blurb, not a real review.)
3) Los Angeles Times Book Review, p4, Dec. 18, 1983
4) Choice, V21 p696, Jan. 1984
5) Atlantic Monthly, V 253 p105, Feb. 1984
6) Publishers Weekly, V224 p62, Oct. 28, 1983.

 Hope this helps!

Aline Baeck
SRI, Int'l
NOR...@STRIPE.SRI.COM

------------------------------

Date:     Wed, 10 Jun 87 12:47:40 cdt
From:     Will Martin -- AMXAL-RI  <wmartin@almsa-1>
To:       sf-l...@red.rutgers.edu
cc:       nor...@stripe.sri.com
Subject:  Re: Codex Seraphinianus Reviews

My thanks to Aline Baeck for locating the references to reviews of the
Codex Seraphinianus! I just spent some time at the St. Louis Public Library
looking them up, and thought I'd pass the word.

Here are the citations she provided, along with comments I noted when
reading the reviews. Notice that all of these that I found are very
short, one paragraph or so in length. They are mostly in the nature of
blurbs of praise or brief descriptions, rather than formal reviews. They
could all have been summed up as "Gee whiz -- what a weird strange book!
How neat!"-- not really terribly valuable from a critical standpoint...
(They were all in microfilm form, by the way.)

> 1) Esquire Magazine, V 102 p260, Nov. 1984
Describes the CS as the "oddest book of the year" and as an
"untranslatable" description of a "parallel universe".

> 2) NYT Book Review, V 89 p20, Feb. 12, 1984
Mentioned in an earlier posting of mine, this is a brief description
with a small reproduction of one of the book's pictures.

> 3) Los Angeles Times Book Review, p4, Dec. 18, 1983
Unfortunately, this one I can't find; the library gets this paper but
doesn't keep back issues on microfilm.

> 4) Choice, V21 p696, Jan. 1984
This is actually a periodical named "Choice Books for College Libraries" or
something like that. Describes the CS as "delightful".

> 5) Atlantic Monthly, V 253 p105, Feb. 1984
Refers to the CS as "completely alien".

> 6) Publishers Weekly, V224 p62, Oct. 28, 1983.
Describes the CS as "haunting and a source of endless stimulation".

If anyone happens to locate the LA Times review, let me know if that is
just another one of these same sort of blurbs.

(I'm still waiting for the book version of "Metamagical Themas" to return to
the library shelf so I can read the reference to CS therein.)

Regards,
Will Martin

------------------------------

Sender:  "James J. Lippard" <Lippard@his-phoenix-multics.arpa>
Date:  Wed, 17 Jun 87 12:18 MST
From:  Lippard@MIT-MULTICS.ARPA
Subject:  Re: Codex Seraphinianus
To:  Will Martin -- AMXAL-RI <wmartin@ALMSA-1.ARPA>

In case you haven't yet found Metamagical Themas, here are the paragraphs
about the Codex Seraphinianus (from p. 229 of MT):

Codex Seraphinianus is a much more elaborate work.  In fact, it is a
highly idiosyncratic magnum opus by an Italian architect indulging his
sense of fancy to the hilt.  It consists of two volumes in a completely
invented language (including the numbering system, which is itself
rather esoteric), penned entirely by the author, accompanied by
thousands of beautifully drawn color pictures of the most fantastic
scenes, machines, beasts, feasts, and so on.  It purports to be a vast
encyclopedia of a hypothetical land somewhat like the earth, with many
creatures resembling people to various degrees, but many creatures of
unheard-of bizarreness promenading throughout the countryside.  Serafini
has sections on physics, chemistry, mineralogy (including many drawings
of elaborate gems), geography, botany, zoology, sociology, linguistics,
technology, architecture, sports (of all sorts), clothing, and so on.
The pictures have their own internal logic, but to our eyes they are
filled with utter non sequiturs.
   A typical example depicts an automobile chassis covered with some
huge piece of what appears to be melting gum in the shape of a small
mountain range.  All over the gum are small insects, and the wheels of
the "car" appear to have melted as well.  The explanation is all there
for anyone to read, if only they can decipher Serafinian.
Unfortunately, no one knows that language.  Fortunately, on another page
there is one picture of a scholar standing by what is apparently a
Rosetta Stone.  Unfortunately, the only language on it, besides
Serafinian itself, is an unknown kind of hieroglyphics.  Thus the stone
is of no help unless you already know Serafinian.  Oh well...  many of
the pictures are grotesque and disturbing, but others are extremely
beautiful and visionary.  The inventiveness that it took to come up with
all these conceptions of a hypothetical land is staggering.
   Some people with whom I have shared this book find it frightening or
disturbing in some way.  It seems to them to glorify entropy, chaos, and
incomprehensibility.  There is very little to fasten onto; everything
shifts, shimmers, slips.

------------------------------

Date: 20 Jul 87 20:17:52 GMT
From: fi...@sei.cmu.edu (Robert Firth)
Subject: Codex Seraphinianus

Described as by "Luigi Serafini", but the Copyright is held by
France Maria Ricci.  This is not a review, but an opinion; and I
assume you know what this book is.

Well, I borrowed it from the local library.  The drawings are
interesting, but the "text" is, in my opinion, a fake.

(a) the page numbering scheme makes no sense

(b) I can't find any obvious regularities in the words.  I looked
    for inflection at the ends and in the middle of words, for
    special initial letters, and for prefixes.  (You know, the
    tricks Ventris applied to Linear B).  No luck.

(c) many sections of text seem to be repetitions of the same symbol
    groups, over and again, with trivial variations.  Nothing like
    a sentence structure.  Moreover, the "letter" distribution is
    not consistent between pages.  This is scribble, not script.

Does anyone have, or recall, any reason for believing the text IS
language, real or invented?

------------------------------

Date: Mon 20 Jul 87 16:24:10-PDT
From: Martin Feather <FEA...@vaxa.isi.edu>
Subject: Codex Seraphinianus number system

I've been trying to decode the numbering in Luigi Serafini's Codex
Seraphinianus, and have a couple of questions that other decoders
might have answers to:

1) any ideas as to why the prefix switches from "|" to "V" from
number 56 to 57, and from "V|" to "<inverse-V>V" from number 77 to
78, and at similar 56+n*21 (4>=n>=0) boundaries?  After all, there
is no such switch from 14 to 15, or from 35 to 36, or from 161 to
162???  It is curious that this occurs at (some of the) multiples of
7 boundaries, while the number system is obviously base 21.

2) why is number 169 (=13 squared, curiously enough) represented so
inconsistently?! (Instead of being the expected
"||<symbol-for-1><symbol-for-1><symbol-for-1>|" it is
"||<symbol-for-2><symbol-for-0><symbol-for-3>|").  Following this,
the "usual" base-21 numbering continues, but is now thrown off by
one due to this glitch (and it doesn't seem to be a spurious page,
since the same effect occurs later in the book when the page
numbering has restarted from zero).

Martin S. Feather
fea...@vaxa.isi.edu

------------------------------

Date: Thu, 23 Jul 87 13:15 EDT
From: Allan C. Wechsler <A...@waikato.s4cc.symbolics.com>
Subject: SF-LOVERS Digest   V12 #334

This message describes the page-numbering scheme of the Codex.  It
answers some questions other SF-lovers have asked about this
particular aspect of the Codex.  It summarizes all we know, and poses
some unanswered questions.

The Codex is in two (originally physically separate) volumes, which I
call vI and vII.  There are eleven major sections, five in vI and six
in vII.  We can guess at the topics of each of the sections, although
some are problematical.

vI: Plants
    Animals
    Nonhuman Bipeds
    Physical Science
    Technology

vII:Humans
    History
    Writing
    Food and Clothing
    Games
    Architecture and Urban Planning

The eleven sections each begin with a right-hand page bearing a
centered title in capitals.  The section title pages also bear a
"topic illustration" excerpted from the section proper.  All the
"internal sections" (that is, all the sections except Plants and
Humans) have a facing blank left-hand page.

Most of the pages of the Codex have centered sequence marks on their
bottom edges.  Exception: most of the section title pages and their
facing pages lack sequence marks.  Exception to the exception: the
section title pages for Humans and Games do bear sequence marks.

The two volumes use the same sequence marks.  That is, the system
starts over again at the beginning of vII.  Every single sequence
mark that is missing from vI (due to pages that don't bear sequence
marks) is supplied in the appropriate place in vII.  vI and vII are
completely consistent with each other (allowing for moderate scribal
variation), so we have a fair degree of confidence that there are no
"mistakes" in the sequence as far as we have it.

The sequence marks fall into groups of 21, which I call "scores".  I
give each score a number starting at s0.  The two volumes end at
slightly different places, both in s8.

The scores are built on a (nearly) invariant system of 21 "digits".
To specify a page, I put a period between score and digit number.
For example, the Death of the Heretic Scribe is in Humans, II:1.14-15.

Each score falls into two sections, the early part (digits 0-14) and
the late part (digits 15-20).  To derive the sequence mark for a
given page, you (usually) substitute the digit (in the places marked
by x's in the following table) into a template whose fixed features
are vertical strokes (which I write "I"), V's, and upside-down V's
(which I write "A").  Each score has two such templates, one for the
early part and one for the late part.  But in s0, s1, s7, and s8, the
early and late templates are identical.  The templates are:

Score   Early Template  Late Template
0       X               X
1       IX              IX
2       IIX             VIX
3       VIIX            AVIX
4       AVIIX           IAVIX
5       AVIIXX          IAVIXX
6       XIIXX           IXIXX
7       IXXXI           IXXXI
8       IIXXXI          IIXXXI

There are four additional complexities that currently have no good
explanations.

First, two of the digits (1 and 15) look almost identical, and I
cannot tell which differences are significant and which are due to
scribal variation.  Thankfully, 1 is an early digit and 15 is a late
one, so for those scores with differing early and late templates, the
template provides the information that the digit doesn't.

Second, two of the digits (5 and 7) are based on the same A-shape
that is used in the score templates.  Their only apparent difference
is that 7 has a trailing dot that 5 lacks.  When 5 and 7 are
juxtaposed with themselves or with template symbols, they undergo
bewildering transformations.  Dots appear and disappear, V's and A's
turn upside-down, and so on.  I suspect this is all due to "contact
constraints" but I can't formulate them.

Third, two of the digits (9 and 19) are drawn differently in
different scores.  19 gets an extra bump in s6, and 9 gets one in s1,
s6, and s7.  These variations are consistent between the two volumes.

Fourth and finally, there is the matter of the unfortunately
incomplete s8.  What we have of it looks as if it has been hit with
hard gamma radiation.  It shows three serious mutations:

1. An additional sequence mark ("8.05") has been inserted between 8.0
and 8.1.  It looks like "II 203 I", and is the only "heterodigitous"
mark in the whole page sequence.

2. 8.4 is missing.

3. 8.9 is missing.

All these peculiarities are maintained with complete consistency
between vI and vII.

If our moderator deems this article to be of sufficient interest to
actually include it in a digest, I will make another posting in the
near future, arguing that the language itself is spurious, and devoid
of actual linguistic content.  In addition I will try to explain some
design principles that run through this remarkable work.

------------------------------

From: mdha...@watmath.waterloo.edu (Matt)
Subject: That crazy book Codex Seraphinianus...
Date: 31 Jul 87 19:28:19 GMT

I need your help, o power of the net!

I am _extremely_ interested in obtaining a copy of the
afore-mentioned book, Codex Seraphianus by Luigi Serafini. I have
read with great interest all of the postings, but asking my mother
(who is a pseudo-librarian) about it got a flat zip. Apparently this
book is not in print at moment, and all of the book stores I have
tried don't have it. I also heard that there exists two copies of
this book, an expensive hardbound version and a two-volume soft copy.

So, my request is are there any people out there who either:

a) Know where this book can be easily purchased (i.e. a reputable
   mailing address, from the publisher, etc.)

b) Know of any libraries close to myself (address info follows...)
   where I can borrow it from?

c) Could send/give/mail/sell? me a copy?

BTW - I am also interested in all those who have been discussing it
by way of posting their reviews/opinions/info/analyses etc. If anyone
would be kind enough to post a summarized version (or mail it to me)
I would be grateful.

I am also very interested in e-mail ing anyone who has a copy and/or
who is interested in this book. Please get in touch with me if you want.

Now here's the problem: I'm current at U. of Waterloo and at the end
of August am leaving for a work term in Montreal. Anyone who knows
Mtl. or of any book- stores thereabouts - I am interested in talking to you.

A very large thank-you for your consideration and possible co-operation.
                ---  Matt.

------------------------------

Date: 28 Jul 87 09:25:01 PDT (Tuesday)
From: Hoffman.es@Xerox.COM
Subject: Codex Seraphinianus

Publishers Central Bureau is no longer a source for 'Codex
Seraphinianus'.  They returned my order with a notation that "...we
can no longer supply or cannot recognize the item."

  -- Rodney Hoffman

------------------------------

From: mcnc!rti!w...@RUTGERS.EDU (William Ingogly)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus
Date: 29 Jul 87 14:38:18 GMT

In article <28...@rutgers.rutgers.edu> Hoffman.es@Xerox.COM writes:
>Publishers Central Bureau is no longer a source for 'Codex
>Seraphinianus'.  They returned my order with a notation that "...we
>can no longer supply or cannot recognize the item."

The same thing happened to me. Does ANYONE have any alternate source
for this book?
                            -- Bill Ingogly

[I got my copy from

   Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller
   Falls Village, CT  06031-5000

 but I didn't notice it in the last catalog (I just skimmed it
 though).  Write him for a catalog or specifically ask him.  Hope
 this helps. -Dave]

------------------------------

From: ol...@quad1.quad.com (Oleg Kiselev)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus
Date: 31 Jul 87 21:32:50 GMT
Reply-to: citi!uiucdcs!uiucuxc!quad1!oleg@RUTGERS.EDU (Oleg Kiselev)

>>Publishers Central Bureau is no longer a source for 'Codex
>>Seraphinianus'.
>Does ANYONE have any alternate source for this book?

As of 3 months ago Soap Plant gift/novelty/boutique shop in West
Hollywood, CA., had a "large supply" of "Codex" (according to them).
The price was around $40+.  If there is interest, I could find out
more (it's a bit out of my usual routes)...
--
Oleg Kiselev  --  ol...@quad1.quad.com --
                                {...!psivax|seismo!gould}!quad1!oleg

DISCLAIMER: All grammatical and spelling errors are inserted
deliberately to test the software I am developing.  In fact, that is
the only reason I am posting. Yeah, that's the ticket! All my
postings are just test data! Yeah!!

------------------------------

From: ames!aurora!eug...@RUTGERS.EDU (Eugene miya)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus
Date: 3 Aug 87 17:07:50 GMT
Reply-to: howard@ames-pioneer.arpa  <Lauri Howard<

Yes, yes I'm interested. An address or phone number will do me just
fine.  Do you know if the Soap Plant had the hardback or softback edition?

Thanks a lot in advance

Lauri Howard
howard@ames-pioneer.arpa   (I think)

------------------------------

From: mcnc!rti!w...@RUTGERS.EDU (William Ingogly)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus
Date: 3 Aug 87 19:34:56 GMT

Oleg, if you'd post this information it would be *greatly*
appreciated since other sources for the Codex seem to have dried up.

                              -- Bill Ingogly

------------------------------

From: putnam@thuban.steinmetz (putnam)
Subject: Re: Codex Seraphinianus
Date: 5 Aug 87 18:34:18 GMT
Reply-to: thuban!put...@RUTGERS.EDU (putnam)

:As of 3 months ago Soap Plant gift/novelty/boutique shop in West
:Hollywood, CA., had a "large supply" of "Codex" (according to them).

Alas! No more.

Well, shall we go?  -- jefu (jeff putnam)
Yes, lets go.       -- UUCP: steinmetz!putnam
(They do not move.) -- ARPA: put...@ge-crd.com

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Date: Mon, 24 Aug 87 15:00 EDT
From: Allan C. Wechsler <A...@waikato.s4cc.symbolics.com>
Subject: Why I think the Codex language is a fake.

The Moderator sent me an enthusiastic reply to my last long screed
about the page-numbering system in the Codex.  Flattery will get you
everywhere.  Here is why I believe the "language" of the Codex is an
elaborate fraud, devoid of actual semantic content.

It's very hard to isolate letters from the cursive script, so I
concentrated my efforts on the "upper-case" or "heading" alphabet.

I took a very small sample of text in the "heading" alphabet, to
wit, the eleven section headings.  I did a very naive statistical
test.  I wanted to answer the question: do the headings behave
statistically like samples from the same language?  In summary, they do not.

In fact, the frequency distribution is suspiciously flat, as if the
artist were trying to be "fair" to each of his invented letters.
Furthermore, certain letters come into vogue, that is, become very
frequent, for a couple of headings, and then disappear again.

It's hard to think of a reason why a real language would show such a
distribution.  The most obvious theory is that those letters came
into vogue as they were invented.  The artist was successively
infatuated with each of his new letterforms, but then got tired of each.

So the naive statistical evidence says that the headings are
nonlinguistic, and it would be darned surprising if the main text
made sense while the headings didn't.  Hence, my current belief is
that none of it makes sense.

By the way, if people are interested in this sort of thing, check
out "Parallel Botany" by Leo Lionni (sp?).

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Date: 25 Aug 87 02:57:01 GMT
From: mcnc!rti!w...@RUTGERS.EDU (William Ingogly)
Subject: Re: Why I think the Codex language is a fake.

A...@waikato.s4cc.symbolics.com writes:
>...  Here is why I believe the "language" of the Codex is an
>elaborate fraud, devoid of actual semantic content...

The Mayan Codex was an elaborate and beautiful artifact whose
semantic content was for many years a complete mystery. Yet people
reacted to that artifact as an object of beauty in spite of/because
of the mystery. Similarly, Egyptian heiroglyphs were for many years
objects of beauty as well as semantic mysteries. Maybe Luigi
Serafini (if I have his name right) was trying to do something
similar: create an undecipherable text whose SEMANTIC content is
(perhaps) nil but whose AESTHETIC content is considerable ... and
maybe the controversy surrounding the "deciphering" of Serafini's
text is part of the ART in what he's done: art as process, in a
certain sense: the controversy and ambiguity is in fact part of the
aesthetic experience of the Codex.

Bill Ingogly

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