An exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library,
13 June – 12 August, 2007
The Codex Leicester, an autograph manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) containing his observations on the nature and properties of water as well as other aspects of science and technology, is one of the most famous and important of Leonardo’s scientific notebooks. Composed circa 1508-1510 and consisting of eighteen loose double sheets in which Leonardo illustrated and wrote down ideas and observations in his distinctive mirror script, the manuscript is a lively record of the thoughts of the great Italian Renaissance artist and scientist.
Water is the central theme of the Codex Leicester, which also presents Leonardo’s notes on subjects ranging from hydraulics to canalization, from astronomy to atmosphere and meteorology, and from physical geology and palaeontology. These provide substantial evidence for the study of his approach to science and technology, especially his understanding of the effects produced by moving water on the earth and in the sky. The notebook includes practical inventions, such as designs for strengthening bridges and for flood control, a number of which were used in Leonardo’s time and are still in use today. The Codex Leicester also contributes to a deeper understanding of Leonardo’s art, in that the Mona Lisa and other late paintings offer a visual synthesis of the artist’s scientific knowledge as summed up in the Codex.
The Chester Beatty Library will display the Codex in an historical context, together with borrowed works and manuscripts from the Library’s own holdings including a rich collection of manuscripts of Arabic science – some dating as far back as the late ninth century – which are of great significance as they transmitted to the western world the fruits of the learning of the classical world. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
The Codex travels to no more than one country every year and will be displayed only at the Chester Beatty Library during its stay in
This exhibition has been kindly supported by the Irish Times and X Communications.