Reviewed by Lance S. Owens
This a review of the READER'S edition - and the Reader's Edition DOES NOT include the facsimile images (art and calligraphy) of the original Red Book: Liber Novus. I suspect many of those who ordered the book unaware of this will be surprised and disappointed. This distinction was not made clear in pre-publication information. If you wish to see the original book in all its visual glory, pay the price and order the complete folio-sized facsimile edition.
So, why then publish, and why purchase, a "Reader's Edition"? Why is the this edition important, even essential?
Because the text of Liber Novus (as Jung formally titled his "Red Book") is really more important than the art. Jung experienced and recorded his visions and then composed his draft manuscript of Liber Novus before beginning on the art. The art and calligraphy came later, they were composed over the following 16 years or so. The text - compiled principally between 1914 and 1915, with a last section added in 1917 - is Jung's primary record of his extraordinary odyssey across the threshold of consciousness, and into the heart of mythopoetic vision. As he said: "This inner world is truly infinite, in no way poorer than the outer one. Man lives in two worlds." This is the journal of Jung's exploration of the inner world - and it ranks as one of the most important journeys of exploration in the record of human exploration. Dr. Shamdasani, who spent thirteen years editing Liber Novus for publication, has strongly suggested that one should read the text before even looking at the images. I agree.
If you are ready to start that reading, there is another reason this "Reader's Edition" is an essential purchase: the big folio edition of The Red Book: Liber Novus is huge and physically very difficult to read. Holding it on your lap, or finding a way to prop it up and read it, is a painful task. God have mercy if you wear bifocals! This edition is formatted in a normal book size, and allows a more comfortable reading experience (if reading Liber Novus can ever be a "comfortable" experience). You will not be disappointed with the beauty of this smaller edition; it is bound "bible style" in soft faux leather with rounded corners, and printed using three colors of ink to add the distinctions in headings and text (this replicates the style of the folio edition). And of course, there is a marker ribbon sewn into the binding. I have no idea how such a finely crafted book can be sold at this price.
But the text is much more difficult to meet than is the beautiful art. The calligraphy and artwork are immediately stunning, even overwhelming. I know - based on the several seminars about Liber Novus I have taught over the last three years - that most people simply never make it past this visual experience; they do not read Jung's account of what happened to him between 1913 and 1916.
the reader now is the same
issue that confronted Jung
then: Though imaginative,
mythic, apparently fictive, and ultimately subjective, what Jung met in his wanderings spoke with the voice of an objective fact. It was independent, ineffably ancient, and yet intimately and synchronously involved with human history. He perceived it as real, and the story it told had the tenor of a revelation. Without some introduction, some guiding insight into what the man was doing, most readers become quickly disoriented.
To guide your first journey through Liber Novus, I highly suggest you start by reading (again) Jung's biographical memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections. At very least, study again Chapter 6, "Confrontation with the Unconscious." Then closely read Shamdasani's very fine introductory essay that prefaces Jung's text in this Reader's Edition. Next, get Dr. Shamdasani's beautiful new book, C. G. Jung: A Biography in Books (my review of this book is available here). After that, there are several hours of free lectures online from my seminars on Liber Novus. Thousands of people have them found useful.