Where to View Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebooks Online for Free

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

Engraving by Cosomo Colombini after Leonardo da Vinci’s self portrait, ca. 1500. (Photo: Stock Photos from Everett Collection/Shutterstock)

Painter, inventor, and scientist Leonardo da Vinci paved the way in many fields during his lifetime. One of the reasons why historians know so much about the Renaissance Man is because of the numerous notebooks he kept from the 1480s until his death in 1519. Inside these journals, Da Vinci explored the many fields that interested him, including anatomy and physiology, engineering, art, and more. These artifacts are also famous for the artist's iconic “mirrored handwriting,” as he wrote all of his personal documents from right to left in a special shorthand.

During his lifetime, Da Vinci accumulated more than 13,000 pages of notes and drawings. While not all of these have been translated or digitized yet, a select few have, and they can be viewed online for free. Read on to see where you can read Da Vinci's available notebooks.

Leonardo da Vinci filled multiple notebooks with sketches, ideas, inventions, and more over the course of his life. And now they're available online. Read on to find out where you can view them.

 

Codex Arundel (ca. 1480s-1518)

Page from Codex Arundel by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, page from “Codex Arundel,” c. 1480-1518. (Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Codex Arundel is a 283-page manuscript by Da Vinci that contains notes on a wide variety of subjects that interested him, including mechanics and geometry. The physical copy is held in The British Library.

You can view the Codex Arundel online via The British Library.

 

Codex Atlanticus (1478-1519)

Atlanticus Codex by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, page from the “Atlanticus Codex” on waterwheels and Archimedean screws, c. 1478-1519. (Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Codex Atlanticus is the largest single collection of drawings and writings by Da Vinci. It includes content about weaponry, musical instruments, mathematics, botany, and more across 1,119 leaves of paper. The entire codex spans Da Vinci's career through Florence, Milan, Rome, and Paris. The physical copy is held in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy.

You can read the translated digitized version of Codex Atlanticus via The Visual Agency. It is available in Italian and English.

 

Codex Trivulzianus (c. 1487-1490)

Page from the Codex Trivulzianus by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, a page from the “Codex Trivulzianus,” c. c. 1487-1490. (Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Codex Trivulzianus contains 55 leaves of paper (originally 65), on which Da Vinci copied lists of words from lexical and grammatical sources. The physical copy of the manuscript is held at Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy.

You can view the Codex Trivulzianus online via the Archivo Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana.

 

Codex Forster (1487-1505)

Codex - Forster III, Serie de manuscritos que incluyen estudios de geometria, pesos y maquinas hidraulicas.

The Forster Codex is made up of five pocket notebooks that have been bound into three volumes. Inside, Da Vinci explores geometry, hydraulic engineering, theory of proportions, topology, and more. The physical copy is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

You can view the Codex Foster I, Codex Forster II, and Codex Forster III online via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

 

Codex on the Flight of Birds (dated 1505)

Codex on the Flight of Birds by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, double-page spread from “Codex on the Flight of Birds,” c. 1505. (Photo: Luc Viatour, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Codex on the Flight of Birds is one of the best-known manuscripts. Relatively short, the codex includes illustrations and notes examining the flight patterns of birds and several inventions for flying machines. The physical copy of the manuscript is held in the Royal Library in Turin, Italy.

You can view the Codex on the Flight of Birds online via the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's website.

 

Madrid Codices (1490s-1504)

Madrid Codex by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, double-page spread from the “Madrid Codex” on the Sforza monument, c. 1490s-1504. (Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Madrid Codices are some of the most important manuscripts for the refined quality of their drawings and for the number of relevant writing on the science of mechanisms by Da Vinci. The physical copy is held at The Biblioteca Nacional de España.

You can view the Madrid Codices online via The Biblioteca Nacional de España.

 

h/t: [Open Culture]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.
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