I first heard of the Codex Seraphinianus many years ago, when a link was posted on a message board I regularly visited at the time. The page featured an assortment of surreal images that, whilst being somewhat alien were also recognisably Earthly. Almost as if they were medieval drawings of exotic animals, the images are utterly wrong, yet easily recognisable.
It reminded me in many ways of the Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious text of unknown origins.
I scoured Google, and found an assortment of other sites that talked about the book. Unlike the Voynich Manuscript the book was published relatively recently – there is no mystery about the author Luigi Serafini, who is very much still alive. I soon discovered that it was written in a strange language using an apparently alien writing system. There is much debate as to whether the text has a meaning at all, or if it is just purely decorative, simply providing structure between the drawings in order to turn it into a text, rather than just a selection of unrelated drawings. The author himself denies that there is any meaning, saying that what he wanted his alphabet to convey to the reader is the sensation that children feel in front of books they cannot yet understand.
The first section of the book covers plant life, starting with a discussion of leaf and root systems and diagrams showing how new branches grow from cuttings. It then goes on to detail a myriad of strange flowers and plants, many recognisably similar to things we know on Earth, such as the Scissor Plant shown here.
The majority of the plants detailed appear to generally function in ways that seem familiar to us, with many being utilised by the native inhabitants in numerous ways, just as we do with plants on Earth.
After the section on flowering plants comes some information about fruit and vegetables, which on the whole are recognisable, whilst also being somewhat alien.
The animals described in the Codex range from minuscule single celled organisms, to insects, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, however that is about all the similarity there is with what we know from our planet.
For example, one page details a diverse collection of tiny single celled organisms that apparently make up a beam of light, perhaps a kind living photos. Other tiny organisms appear to dwell in coils of green organic rope, or within some form of solid rainbow. The book carefully lays out the different creatures in neat rows and columns, exactly as you’d expect to see Earthly creatures classified.
On a larger scale, however, many of the other animals are most un-Earthly, such as a group of similar looking creatures that appear to have mechanical parts. For example, one has wheels, another some kind of drill in its tail, and the third appears to have what looks like the end part of a key attached.
In the third chapter, the Codex describes a diverse category of bipedal (or in a few cases quadrapedal) creatures. Since the main identifying factor of these creatures is that, whilst mostly alien, the all have humanoid legs and feet from the knees down, I have decided to classify these as “peda” (things with feet) in order to mirror the “flora” and “fauna” sections.
The chapter begins with the usual introductory pages, showing a variety of creatures per page, but then goes on to discuss other creatures in more detail, showing what appears to be an example of their native habitat, with images of the animal in isolation, along with a page and a half of text (in the alien script) describing them.