Leonardo Da Vinci was not at all the “unlettered man” he said to be. The 15th-century genius was an avid reader and owned nearly two hundred books, which, at that time, was an extraordinary number for an artist-engineer. However his “lost library” is one of the less studied aspects of Da Vinci, the Museo Galileo in Florence set up a fascinating exhibition, ‘Leonardo and His Books: The Library of the Universal Genius‘, that reconstructs this library through the many references to be found in Da Vinci’s writings: quotations, authors’ names, book titles, and lists of works in his possession.
The exhibition obviously includes the only volume actually used by Da Vinci that has come down to us: the ‘Treaty of architecture and machines‘ by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, the splendid parchment manuscript preserved in the Laurentian Library of Florence, on which Leonardo wrote twelve handwritten annotations.
Visitors have also the opportunity to admire magnificent manuscripts and precious exhibiting incunabula copies of the books found in the lists written by Da Vinci, as well as to interact with multimedia applications that allow them, not only to browse through the books, but also to identify the passages of the Da Vinci’s codes where they have been referenced to or where there are traces of their use.
Moreover, it is possible to visit the study of Leonardo, which has been recreated including the writing and drawing tools he used. Following the end of the exhibition on September 9th, the Museo Galileo will make available online a digital library containing all of the books owned or consulted by Leonardo Da Vinci.