After coveting this book for over ten years, it has finally come home to roost on my shelf, a shelf that now seems pitifully unsuited for displaying such a beautiful work of book art.
Originally published in 1981 in Italy, this strange and obscure art book sold out and prices soared. I would occasionally check for it on ebay and amazon, but the price never dipped below 500 euros. In 2013 Rizzoli published a new edition, and right now you can get this beauty for about 75 dollars. I didn’t have to think about it for long. Who knew how long it would take for this edition to sell out and become untouchable once again?
The Codex is the encyclopedia of an invented world. It’s pages are covered with strange and surreal images and unreadable text. The experience of reading it is like that of no other book you will ever touch. It is a clue for you to follow, a case waiting to be unraveled, a mystery that casts you as the leading character in a fantastic story unfolding between you and the heavy, textured pages.
Where did it come from? Another planet? Another future? Another dimension? The text and the pictures are proof of another world, an alien society admitted and explained, but never translated. You begin to understand, you falter.
As in Borges’ short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” the Codex is a book that dims the line between fiction and fact. Did the country result in the book or will the book result in the country?
Humanoid creatures appear on its pages, but this is not the world you know. Surreal landscapes and beasts meet your eye. Two humanoids who appear to be having sex slowly morph into a crocodile. Diagrams depict plants you will never see. A man has a nib-tipped pen where his arm should be.
In the back cover of the Codex, a small yellow booklet waits with answers from the author, answers about the origins and creative process behind this book that I do not want to read. I prefer the fantasy, the illusion cast from the pages and onto the real world. Reading the Codex, a strange world takes shape around you. If you are not careful, the next person who opens its cover might find you a picture on its page.