Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks to be displayed together in the UK for the first time as new British Library exhibition marks 500 years since Leonardo’s death

Observations on the course of the River Arno. British Library, Arundel MS 263, f. 149r (c) British Library Board
  • A selection of notes and drawings from the Codex Arundel, owned by the British Library, the Codex Forster, owned by the V&A, and the Codex Leicester, owned by Bill Gates, will be displayed together in the UK for the first time
  • Marking 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci’s death, new British Library exhibition showcases Leonardo’s manuscript legacy, explores how he believed motion to be the ‘cause of all life’ and the influence this had on his work as an inventor and artist
  • The exhibition has been supported by Automobili Pininfarina and is accompanied by a book and series of inspired events

7 June – 8 September 2019

Marking 500 years since his death, Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion at the British Library will reveal how Leonardo believed motion to be the ‘cause of all life’. The exhibition is in partnership with Automobili Pininfarina.

Leonardo da Vinci is known first and foremost as an artist but the British Library’s exhibition will focus on his notebooks and the unique and compelling insight they offer into the workings of his mind and his scientific investigations.  

Leonardo’s notebooks reveal his close observations, detailed recording and systematic analysis of natural phenomena, with a particular emphasis on water in motion.  Leonardo believed motion was a fundamental key to understanding the natural world and that water was the driving force of nature.

The exhibition will also look at how the scientific exploration of nature and motion found in his notebooks directly informed his work as inventor and artist.  It offers an immersion in the restless creativity of the notebooks, which will help visitors to see his famous paintings with fresh eyes. 

It will be the first time a selection of notes and drawings from the Codex Arundel, owned by the British Library, the Codex Forster, owned by the V&A, and the Codex Leicester, owned by Bill Gates, will be displayed together in the UK, as well as the first time the Codex Leicester will be exhibited in Britain since it was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion has been curated by Dr Juliana Barone and British Library curators Dr Andrea Clarke and Stephen Parkin.

Dr Andrea Clarke, British Library curator of Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, said:

‘This is a unique opportunity to see inside the extraordinary mind of Leonardo da Vinci and we are delighted to be showcasing his manuscript legacy by bringing together highlights from three of his notebooks, which were all once owned by British collectors, for the first time in the UK.’ 

Dr Juliana Barone, Associate Curator of Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion, said:

'This exhibition offers crucial evidence as to how Leonardo thought on paper and, as a scientist and artist, attempted to understand the natural world in terms of its principles in order to re-create nature. Through a selection of studies ranging from water flow to geometry, mechanics, astronomy and the human body in motion, the visitor is enabled to sense the depth and richness of Leonardo’s creative mind as well as exceptional ability as a draughtsman in conveying visual knowledge'. 

The exhibition is in partnership with Automobili Pininfarina, an Italian design and luxury brand creating the world's first pure-electric, zero-emissions hypercar.  Automobili Pininfarina will be exhibiting a 1,900 hp, zero-emissions Battista hypercar on the British Library Piazza between 6 and 9 June 2019.

Luca Borgogno, Design Director at Automobili Pininfarina, said:

‘Automobili Pininfarina celebrates the spirit of innovation and we are privileged to honour a true master – Leonardo da Vinci – at the British Library's Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion exhibition.  Leonardo was a true Italian genius, the first person to combine the disciplines of art, design and engineering – and from Leonardo in the 16th Century to Pininfarina in 2019, these principles remain strong.'

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion at the British Library is accompanied by a series of events inspired by the exhibition, including a range of adult learning courses, free family workshops and an audio-description tour for blind and partially sighted visitors, as well as a book edited by Dr Juliana Barone, which is available in hardback from the British Library shop and all good bookshops.

The full Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion events programme:

The Female da Vincis: With Jo Dunkley

Friday 8 June 19.00 – 20.30
Leading astrophysicist and award-winning champion of women in STEM Jo Dunkley hosts an evening which challenges the idea that female scientists were on the sidelines of scientific history, playing little part in key discoveries. Join us to celebrate these unsung Leonardo da Vincis.
£12 / £10 / £8 / Knowledge Centre

Monday 17 June 19.15 – 20.30 
Leonardo da Vinci dedicated much of his time to the study of water and its motion. We explore water in literature and its imaginative power with a panel including author of The Way to the Sea Caroline Crampton.
£12 / £10 / £8 / Knowledge Centre 

Leonardo da Vinci’s Scientific Impact: Domenico Laurenza
Tuesday 2 July 19.00 – 20.30
Renowned Leonardo scholar Domenico Laurenza explores the impact that the Codex Leicester specifically and Leonardo more generally had on science in 18th-century England.
£15 / £12 / £10 / Knowledge Centre

Leonardo da Vinci Curator Talk: Juliana Barone

Monday 15 July 19.00 – 20.00
Take a look behind the scenes with the Associate Curator of Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion Juliana Barone, as she talks about the process of putting together the exhibition.
Free / Ticket required / Knowledge Centre

Moon Gazing

Tuesday 23 July 19.00 – 20.30
50 years since the very first mission to land on its surface, join us to reflect on the moon’s pass, present and future with guest speakers including Alice Bunn, International Director at the UK Space Agency, in an entertaining and illuminating evening devised and hosted by Unlimited Theatre.
£12 / £10 / £8 Knowledge Centre

Codex Talks: Nature’s Magic Ingredient – Water
Friday 26 July 19.00 – 20.30
Examine the latest technologies to conserve water and save the oceans with speakers including Igor Martin, CEO, Hydromea and Adrian Griffiths, CEO, Recycling Technologies.
In partnership with Codex – International Technology Leaders Network
£20 / £18 / £17 / Knowledge Centre

Martin Kemp on Leonardo's Greatest Hits
Tuesday 6 August 19.00 – 20.30
One of the world’s leading authorities on Leonardo offers a fresh look at the master’s work. In this illustrated lecture he focuses on key milestones that cover an extraordinary range of topics across Leonardo’s many fields of discipline.
£15 / £12 / £10 / Knowledge Centre

The Art/Science of the Polymath
Monday 2 September 19.00 – 20.30
Did the polymath mind die with the end of the Renaissance? University Challenge star and mathematician Bobby Seagull chairs a panel of contemporary British polymaths, with visual artist and economic macro strategist Davey Jose, Miss England 2017, oncologist, and singer Stephanie Hill, and historian Peter Burke, who specialises in the history of knowledge, to challenge the idea that the Renaissance mind is history.
£15 / £12 / £10 / Knowledge Centre

Notes to editors

Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion is open 9.30 – 20.00 Monday to Friday, 9.30 – 17.00 on Saturday, 11.00 – 17.00 on Sunday and is subject to availability. 

Ticket prices are as follows:
Full Price: £7.00
Senior 60+: £6.00
Child 12-17: £4.00
Child 11 and Under: Free
Concessions: £3.00 - £4.00 

British Library opening hours can be found here.

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Automobili Pininfarina and the Battista
Automobili Pininfarina is an Italian design and luxury brand creating the world's first pure-electric, zero-emissions hypercar range, available from late 2020. The first car, the Battista, takes the name of Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina who was the founder of Pininfarina, the Italian automotive styling house he began in 1939. It will be designed and hand-crafted under contract by Pininfarina S.p.A. in Cambiano, Italy.


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