May 11, 2003

Pulcinellopedia

In the course of my search for the Codex Seraphinianus (see below), I gathered that Luigi Serafini had one other book to his name, the intriguingly titled Pulcinellopedia Piccola. I scanned thousands of bookshop shelves during my two years in Italy, but never caught sight of a copy.

First of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

A couple of years ago, I chanced upon a single image that someone had scanned from the book and uploaded onto a commedia dell’arte-related site. This is the ‘pulcinellasaurus’ that I’ve since made the centrepiece of my Giornale’s logo.

Second of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

Last year, after another web-search, I was heartened to see copies of the Pulcinellopedia listed for sale at an Italian web-site. Serafini, I learned, was not sole author of the work: one P. Cetrulo was listed as co-author. Frustratingly, the site did not offer international shipping.

Third of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

Then, another web-search, maybe six weeks ago, brought another site to my attention: Unilibro. They had copies of the requisite item in stock, and promptly dispatched one to me. It arrived a few weeks ago: a white softcover quarto volume whose somewhat grubby exterior seemed to speak of a long, lonely time spent on shelves or in stacks. It had been published in 1984 by Longanesi of Milan.

Fourth of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

The book comprises dozens of pencil illustrations, monochrome for the most part, beginning with a puppet-show depicted comic-strip style. After a couple of brief texts, the body of the book begins: a ‘suite’ in nine sections, some comprising many illustrations, others with just one. Anyone familiar with the Codex Seraphinianus will feel on familiar ground here, both with regard to the style of the illustrations, and to the sense of bafflement they provoke.

Fifth of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

It is hard to discern any particular narrative in the drawings, or to follow any single thread through the ‘suite’, beyond the simple presence, howsoever disguised or distorted, of Pulcinella himself.

Sixth of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

One of the several puzzling aspects of this book is its peculiar epigraph, which runs thus:

uuèn gud is gud
cchiùu blekk’e middenàit kennóttubbì

Which looks to me like garbled English rendered in Italian orthography: When good is good/cue(?) black midnight cannot be. What are they on about?

Seventh of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.

Clicking on most of the images above will open larger versions of the same.

Last of eight images scanned from Serafini's 'Pulcinellopedia'.
Posted by misteraitch at May 11, 2003 01:09 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Here's a possible solution to the puzzle.

"uuèn gud is gud
cchiùu blekk'e middenàit kennòttubbì"

You are perfectly right, that's garbled English rendered in Italian orthography, with an added touch of neapolitan dialect: "cchiùu" stands for
"piu'".

So the verse's meaning should be kind of "When good is good/blacker than midnight it cannot be".

Posted by: Franco Bonacci on May 11, 2003 09:32 PM

By way of an addendum, the following casts some light on the identity of Serafini’s shadowy co-author, P. Cetrulo:

The origin of ‘Pulcinella’ (Mr. Punch) is lost in the end of time, but certainly it is derived from the character Zanni, the servant, the ignorant but canny peasant of the Commedia dell’Arte, whose long nose alludes to his vivid sensuality…
Pulcinella is a Neapolitan mask, he is dressed in white, often singing about love, hunger, money. His name was believed to come from a certain Puccio Aniello, but the actual etymology is ‘Pullicino’ or ‘Pullus Gallinaceus’, in Neapolitan dialect Pollicinella; he pretends to belong to the famous family Cetrulo (cucumber), son of Giancocozza Cetrulo (Watermelon cucumber) and Mrs. Papera (duck) Trentova, all matters of jokes in his songs.
Posted by: misteraitch on May 12, 2003 03:55 PM

through your remarks on the pulcinellopedia I was able to order the very last copy of it at unilibro.
I already own ( since 1981) a codex seraphinianus and am very glad that your journal showed me the existance of another beautiful work by the same artist.
thank you very much!

Posted by: peter de roos on July 18, 2003 03:24 PM

Thanks for posting these images. I bought a hardcover of the Codex in 1984 for $80 at the Sun Book Store on Spring Street in Soho, NY.

My kids grew up with it. It's worn but still inspiring all who see it.

Genius!

Posted by: Juan Wilson on September 20, 2003 06:56 AM

I need this book!!! If anyone knows where I can get it or has a copy they're willing to part with, please email me. Thanks! Serafini kicks ass!


D

Posted by: dAeve on December 17, 2003 01:17 PM
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