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 hanging in the Entrance Hall of the British Library
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.