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Introduction

[Whole folios] Notes, with sketches and diagrams, by Leonardo da Vinci. Notes, with sketches and diagrams, by Leonardo da Vinci

Everyone has heard of the Mona Lisa, but less well-known than Leonardo's painting are his notebooks. They show that he was a designer and scientist way beyond his time. He drew his visions of the aeroplane, the helicopter, the parachute, the submarine and the car. It was more than 300 years before many of his ideas were improved upon.

The notebooks are where Leonardo recorded his own ideas as well as existing designs and philosophies for reference. They were never intended for publication. After his death in France on 2 May 1519, Francesco Melzi, his pupil, brought many of his manuscripts and drawings back to Italy. Melzi's heirs, who had no idea of the importance of the manuscripts, gradually disposed of them.

Despite this, over 5,000 pages still exist in Leonardo's 'mirror writing', from right to left. Over the centuries the sheets have been split up, and few notebooks survive in anything like their original form. Some even remained undiscovered until 1966, when they were found by chance in the archives of the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid.

Models of Leonardo's glider and parachute Models of Leonardo's glider and parachute hanging in the Entrance Hall of the British Library in London
Model-makers: Simon Sanderson (glider), Katarian Ollikaine (parachute)

The British Library holds one of his notebooks, the Codex Arundel. It is on permanent display.

Internet users can now examine this priceless early 16th-century manuscript in detail over the web using our award-winning Turning the Pages technology.

From 4 September 2003 to 5 January 2004 visitors to the British Library's St Pancras building were able to see three full-size models made for the BBC One series Leonardo.

These web pages examine the three inventions and allow you to see Leonardo's drawings and explanations in detail.

Main
His life His life
His insights His insights
Diving apparatus Diving apparatus
Parachute Parachute
Glider Glider
Turning the Pages Turning the Pages
 
 
 
Discover more:
Main
His life His life
His insights His insights
Diving apparatus Diving apparatus
Parachute Parachute
Glider Glider
Turning the Pages Turning the Pages
   

Tell me more

EXTENDED ESSAY

The Codex Arundel and Codex Leicester notebooks (PDF format) - 220kb

EXTENDED ESSAY

An introduction to Leonardo's Codex Arundel (PDF format) - 172kb

SHOWCASES

Showcase: Read more about this treasure

Read more about Leonardo's notebook

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