Be Still my Brain! Storie Naturali by Luigi Serafini

I routinely search “Luigi Serafini” on sites like Abebooks and Addall, just to make sure I don’t miss out on any uncharacteristically good Serafini deals (like the French website that was selling 1993 FMR editions of the Codex for $140 about a year ago).  Last night, in the middle of the search results was a book I hadn’t heard of before: Storie Naturali by Jules Renard, illustrated by Serafini.  I still haven’t learned Italian, so I’m at the mercy of Google’s translation service, but from what I gather, it is an illustrated edition of Jules Renard’s Histoires Naturelles (Storie Naturali in Italian).  I’m not familiar with Renard, although the full (French) text of his work is available through his Wikipedia page.  I’ve only read the first few pages, but it immediately presents itself as something you’d imagine Serafini sinking his teeth into – personified animals, animalized humans, a world that is both familiar and at the same time very strange and unexpected.

Doing some research about the edition, here is what I have so far: it is published by BUR, a division of Rizzoli that is releasing special editions of books it has published in the past as part of it’s anniversary (70th?  not really sure…).  Also in the series is a fancy edition of de Sade’s Justine, and in another one of those awesome convergences of my book collecting interests, George Perec’s Oulipo masterpiece, Life a User’s Manual.  (The Perec is especially impressive, with each chapter bound separately in a puzzle-piece shape that is held together in a giant frame.)

I’m still not sure about the specifics of the Serafini book, however: I have seen some pictures of it bound in brown leather and others bound in gray cloth; sometimes it is shown boxed, and other times the book is on its own.  What I do know is that it has numerous Serafini illustrations – enough that this constitutes a major work in Serafini’s canon and stands as more than one of his occasional illustration jobs, such as Etimologiario.  Even better, many of the individual works (mostly leaves) are inserted into pockets from which they can be removed, meaning I can finally frame some Serafini artwork and put it up on my walls.  The book is limited to 600 copies, and from what I found, it is signed by Serafini, which makes it a must-have.

I ordered my copy this morning and will be sure to post numerous pictures once it arrives.  For now, here are two very cool links: the first is a picture of the book from the publisher’s website, and the second is a video (in Italian) of an interview with Serafini about the book.  Even if you don’t understand the language, this video is essential for Serafini fans, as it shows him in his element, inside his giant house/studio, which he has molded into a Serafinian space all his own.

Serafini video

5 Responses to “Be Still my Brain! Storie Naturali by Luigi Serafini”

  1. 1 Chris Kearin March 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    300 Euros? Hopefully there will be a trade edition later on that will be more affordable, although I’m not holding my breath. Still, it looks like a wonderful book.

  2. 2 chancepress March 7, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    It will be interesting to see if they do a trade edition. On the one hand, 600 copies seems like a pretty small limitation (compared to 4000 for the first edition of the Codex), so I could see them trying to keep it in print after that, but I’m also not sure how this book would be made into a trade edition in the first place, since so much of the production (especially the pull-out plates) seems like it’s intrinsic to the book. Also, from reading about the series, it seems like they are reprinting special editions of distinguished books in their publishing history by pairing the original texts up with contemporary artists/designers… meaning that the “trade edition” is any pocket edition of the original book, whereas the special illustrated edition is a unique publication.

  3. 3 justine March 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    your blog was up before abebook’s post about this, but they haven’t credited you?? even though their post is blatantly a copy of this… wow, that’s pretty wack.

    not nice, mr. abebooks, not nice at all.

  4. 4 5is6 February 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for the info here. I just went to order a copy from BUR’s website only to find out they are not set up to ship to the US yet. Where did you order your copy from if you don’t mind me asking?

    • 5 chancepress March 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm – reasonable (and fast) shipping to the US, but you’re rolling the dice with the packing. i got lucky with my copy, but i’ve had other orders from them arrive damaged, and returning it is a pain, for obvious reasons.

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March 2010

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