Da Vinci wrote down anything that interested him in the notebooks, including engineering, physiology, art, and science. Now, his writings are available online for free!
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about Leonardo da Vinci? Most people will probably think about the Mona Lisa or perhaps another of his famous paintings.
Although he was certainly a great painter, he was so much more. He was an inventor and had a lot of insight into what the future held as a result of his keen mind.
It seems as if the Renaissance man was not only busy painting and inventing, he was also keeping track of his musings. He began keeping notebooks sometime in the 1480s and continued for about four decades until he died in 1519.
Da Vinci wrote down anything that interested him in the notebooks, including engineering, physiology, art, and science. Interestingly, he also used a form of “mirrored handwriting” as he wrote everything in a type of shorthand that was written from right to left.
Some 13,000 pages of drawings and notes were accumulated over the years that da Vinci was writing things down. Not everything has been digitized and it certainly has not all been translated, but the ones that have been made readable are now available online to read for free.
The British Library is the home to the Codex Arundel, a 283-page manuscript that contains notes written by da Vinci on a variety of subjects. The physical copy is available at the museum, but you can also view the Codex Arundel online for free.
The Codex Atlanticus is available online in both Italian and English at The Visual Agency. Some 1,119 leaves of paper have been translated. The content focuses on many different subjects, from mathematics and musical instruments to weapons and botany.
A digitized copy of the Codex Trivulzianus, which was originally 65 sheets of paper but is now 55, is available through the Archivo Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana.
The five pocket notebooks that make up the Forster Codex explore a variety of subjects, including hydraulic engineering, topology, and geometry. The physical copy is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the museum also holds the digitized copy online.
One of the better-known manuscripts by da Vinci, the Codex on the Flight of Birds is available at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Although short, it examines flight patterns of birds and shows his brilliant mind and the designs for some futuristic flying machines.
One other piece that is certainly worth considering is the Madrid Codices. These manuscripts include writings on science and various other subjects. You can view them online through The Biblioteca Nacional de España website.