While in Rome I purchased a “lapinopedia” illustrated with the mysterious drawings, paintings and hieroglyphs of Luigi Serafini, titled Il coniglio d’oro (The Golden Rabbit). It includes the wily rabbit tricksters both known and unknown and features somewhat eerily appetizing recipes “in 21 fantasies.” The publisher, Rizzoli / Italia, notes that the volume will lead “curious scholars and gourmand to the discovery of the astonishing real and imaginary world” of the legendary cottontails. As a lapinofile (i.e., rabbit lover), I found this obsession with the prolific furry buggers of great interest. And of particular joy is Serafini’s codex signs that are contorted into a secret lapin-daryesque alphabet.
Who is this artist? Thirty years ago, Serafini, a 65-year-old Italian sculptor and industrial designer living in Rome, created one of the more intriguing books I’ve ever seen, known as the Codex Seraphinianus. It is an encyclopedia of an imaginary world, thoroughly illustrated and described in an imaginary language. It has, for example, chapters on how a couple of love-makers produce a crocodile, on the development of a horse maggot and on why it is a great idea to replace a leg with a wheel.
Out of print, the Codex has repeatedly been republished in Italy, the U.S., the Netherlands, Germany and China. Some of the books have hit the price of €1,000.
In almost no time after publication the treatise generated a number of myths and legends. Members of the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles put much effort into deciphering the text until the author condescended to come to them in person … to confirm that the text is meaningless. The drawings were recognized as devilish and damned by a number of institutions. And a website was created to translate English into the language of the Codex Seraphinianus, and so on and so forth.
The new volume addresses the Anthropocunicologoia Culturale of the long-eared mystics. I hope that it will come out in English. Until then, I have it under my pillow in the hope that its words written by Daniela Trasatti and visual codes will seep into my transcendent mind.