You know exactly how puzzling books can be if you’ve ever tried reading Gravity’s Rainbow (or anything else by Thomas Pynchon, really). If you like a good story, working through the feeling of being stumped, and interacting with an aesthetically stunning piece of laser carpentry, there’s a new project on Kickstarter that you might like.
The Codex Silenda is a book that has five pages. If you’re wondering what could possibly be so
challenging about getting through a book that has a mere five pages, it’s that access to each page is protected by a mechanical puzzle. Readers must solve the puzzle that precedes each page by maneuvering the various gears and bolts before they can continue.
The mechanical encryption that moderates access to each page grows progressively more complex as you advance through the book. The second puzzle in the book called the Rotating Maze involves guiding a peg through a maze. That sounds simple enough, but the maze itself is hidden from view using a central dais. How do you traverse a maze when you can’t even see it? Ask people who’ve got to the second page of the Codex Silenda.
With all the riddling and resolving going on, it’s easy to forget that the Codex Silenda is actually a book. It tells the story of an apprentice working under Da Vinci who stumbles upon the very same codex that readers are required to solve to get through the book. The puzzles turn out to be a trap laid out by the artist to capture anyone trying to snoop on his work. In classic fourth-wall-breaking fashion, solving the puzzles leads to the apprentice escaping Da Vinci’s trap.
There are the puzzles and the story, but another compelling reason to buy the puzzle book is its beautiful design. Each page and associated puzzle is produced using laser-cut wood. If the pictures of the proof-of-concept are anything to go by, the Codex Silenda is as much a work of art that that could go in a display as it is a mind-boggling codex with a narrative built into it.
The Codex Silenda is currently on Kickstarter with about $150K under its belt, and counting; the campaign has more than three weeks to go. Both fully assembled and non-assembled (i.e requiring buyers to assemble the book themselves) versions are being made available through the campaign—both versions are sold out as of the writing of this article. You might still want to keep a close eye on the campaign since backers often move between reward tiers or withdraw their pledge, opening up a spot for others who want to reserve the product. The makers have started an email waiting list to which you can sign up here and, of course, you are welcome to back the project even though early bird units are gone. If all goes to plan, the book will start shipping by Christmas this year.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.