Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci made a lasting impact on art and science through his dedicated exploration of topics like mathematics, engineering, anatomy, and more. Over decades, da Vinci collected his handwritten observations in what are known as his codices, or notebooks, which include numerous written examinations and sketches involving subjects spanning nature, mechanical engineering, mathematics, and more.

In the years following his death in the early 16th Century, many of his manuscripts were sold off, passing through the hands of various political figures and art collectors. In 1831 one of these codices, the Codex Arundel (named for the Earl of Arundel, who acquired the notebook from Spain around the middle of the 17th Century), was purchased by the British Museum.

Today, the Codex Arundel is housed in the British Library, and in 2007 it was included as part of the library’s “Turning the Pages” project. Developed by the British Library in partnership with software company Armadillo Systems, Turning the Pages is a piece of software used to view highly detailed scans of books and historical documents online.

With Turning the Pages, anyone can visit the British Library website to view high-quality scans of da Vinci’s original works from the Codex Arundel for free.

Written in da Vinci’s native Italian (and in his unique mirrored writing style), the notebook gives a fascinating insight into the creative and scientific mind of the Renaissance master himself. Even for those who don’t read Italian, the pages provide a look at da Vinci’s detailed plans for precursors to modern-day machines, including an underwater breathing apparatus, and show his interest in science through his examinations of geometry, nature, and sound.

Through April 19, 2020, visitors to the Saint Louis Science Center can also examine detailed reproductions of the Codex Arundel, as well as more of da Vinci’s manuscripts, art, and more than 60 life-size recreations of his engineering inventions and machines, inside Da Vinci: The Exhibition.

Visit the British Library online to see the Codex Arundel. And visit the Saint Louis Science Center to learn more about the exhibition and purchase tickets.

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Michael Wense
Contributing Writer