Codex Seraphinianus is the fantastical brainchild of Luigi Serafini. An artist, architect, and designer, Serafini drew on his multidisciplinary background to craft an encyclopedia of a world of impossibilities. Published in 1981, Codex wowed readers with its intricate illustrations and its original premise. The book first appears as completely nonsensical – an encyclopedia about an alien world complete with alien handwriting – but there is a method to the madness. Creator Serafini took two and a half years to complete the project, and since then there have been numerous academic papers and essays written about it.
As with other encyclopedias, the pages of Codex Seraphinianus exhaustively detail the world’s various elements, except in this instance said world does not physically exist. Flora are shown as diagrams reminiscent of classical botanical illustrations. Fauna are playfully portrayed as otherworldly versions of animals we have on Earth.
These depictions of wildlife are incredibly imaginative, often playing with shape – such as the hollow trees – or combining ordinary items like pen quills and fishbowls with fantastic creatures.
Of course, Serafini couldn’t very well leave out the people of this intriguing alien world. He shows us a number of colorful cultures, complete with traditional clothes, and the way they interact with their children. All illustrations in the encyclopedia whimsically blend the modern with the antiquated, which only contributes to its dreamy quality.