The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London recently published scans of two of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks so website visitors can digitally zoom and flip through the drawings and musings of the Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and sculptor. Jumbled together in the delicate journals are thoughts on both science and art—detailed charts and speculations contained on the same pages as observational sketches of hats or horse hooves.
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Da Vinci is believed to have started recording his thoughts in notebooks during the 1480s while he was a military and naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. The writing included in the notebooks was produced in 16th-century Italian “mirror-writing,” which one reads right to left. Scholars have debated the reasoning behind this style, believing it was either a way to code his thoughts, or simply make writing easier as a left-handed artist. “Writing masters at the time would have made demonstrations of mirror-writing, and his letter-shapes are in fact quite ordinary: he used the kind of script that his father, a legal notary, would have used,” an article on the V&A’s website explains. “It is possible to decipher Leonardo’s curious mirror-writing, once the eye has become accustomed to the style.”
The collective title for the five notebooks in the V&A’s collection is the Forster Codices. This digitized set contains his earliest (1487-90, Milan) and latest (1505, Florence) notebooks in the museum’s collection. The name for the journals comes from John Forster who bequeathed the valuable works to the museum in 1876. The V&A plans to digitize the three other notebooks found in the two volumes Codex Forster II and III, for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 2019. You can learn more about the series of notebooks in the collection on the V&A’s website. (via Boing Boing)