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Da Vinci Inventions

Updated on December 18, 2017

The History of the Leonardo Da Vinci Notebooks

I used to own a copy of Leonardo's Notebooks a long time ago, but I foollshly gave it away when I moved to Canada. I have since bought another copy and simply marvel at his ingenuity.

While I admire Da Vinci's paintings, they don't fill me with awe as the Leonardo Da Vinci inventions. I have always been fascinated with science and the history of science - and therefore I am actually far more interested in what Leonardo wrote and drew in his notebooks than what he painted.

This lens is my attempt to bring together (in one place) as much information as possible about Leonardo's scientific inventions and his notebooks.

Image courtesy of

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa

Leonardo Da Vinci Biography

Just a brief Biography.

Born in Italy - April 1452

Died in France - May 1519

Leonardo worked mostly for the Northern Italian Nobility - the Sforza family, the Medici family and the Borgia family. He spent 3 years staying at the Belvedere in the Vatican (1513 - 1516) where he was studying some of his inventions rather than painting. Towards the end of his life, he was working for King Francois I of France.

It is also well know that Leonardo wrote backwards (in reverse) in all his notebooks. Most likely this was done to prevent others from stealing his ideas and inventions.

Leonardo painted such famous paintings and frescos as -

The Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)

Madonna of the Rocks

Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)

The Last Supper

Adoration of the Magi

Virgin and Child with St Anne

Portrait of Ginevra de Benci

The Annunciation

Image source - Mona Lisa - Wikipedia

In May 2019, (6 years from now - 2013) it will be 500 years since Leonardo died. I hope there is a celebration of Leonardo's life and works.

Leonardo - Scientist versus Painter

Which side of Leonardo's personality do you admire the most?

Da Vinci Codex Leicester

Codex Leicester
Codex Leicester

Thomas Coke, the Earl of Leicester, purchased this codex in 1717. It was named Codex Leicester after him. In 1980, Armand Hammer (the President of Occidental Petroleum) obtained the Codex Leicester for $5.6 million. He renamed the Codex as Codex Hammer.

This notebook was later purchased by Bill Gates (Founder of Microsoft Inc) in 1994 for $30.8 million. Gates renamed the Codex back to the Codex Leicester (the original name).

Some pages of this codex can be seen on the TURNING THE PAGE interactive section of the British Library - along with some pages of the Codex Arundel. See the British Library link in the Resources section.

This is the only original notebook in private hands and the only one in the USA. It was written between 1506 and 1510. It contains 72 pages of notes and observations by Leonardo (in his reverse handwriting) on a wide range of topics including -



Rivers and seas

Properties of water

Rocks and fossils


Celestial light

There are also over 300 pen-and-ink sketches, drawings, and diagrams,

Image source - one page from the Codex Leicester

Da Vinci Codex Arundel

A page from the Codex Arundel
A page from the Codex Arundel

The 283 pages of this codex were acquired by the Earl of Arundel in the 1630s while he was in Spain. These pages were written by Leonardo between 1478 and 1518 and they have notes and comments on Architecture, Geometry and Mechanics. This codex was given to the Royal Society in 1667 and later purchased by the British Library in 1831.

Pages from this codex can be seen in the TURNING THE PAGE interactive section of the British Library website - see resources.

Books About Leonardo Da Vinci, the Scientist

Da Vinci Codex Trivulzianus

Codex Trivulzianus
Codex Trivulzianus

This codex used to have 62 sheets, now only 55 remain. They are mostly just lists of Latin vocabulary words that Leonardo wrote while trying to educate himself. This codex is kept in the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy and is not usually available for the public to look at.

Image source - Wikipedia

Da Vinci Codex "On the Flight of Birds"


This is a short collection of notebook pages - just 18 sheets dated to 1505 - and they all are detailed notes on the flight of birds. Leonardo also attempted to understand the mechanics of flight. He built several flying machines but was unsuccessful in getting any of them to fly. This codex is held at the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, Italy

Image source - German Wikispaces

concerning flight
concerning flight

Leonardo Da Vinci on TV

If you ever get the chance to watch the TV episode "Concerning Flight" from the TV series Star Trek Voyager, I would suggest you do so. Although this series is set in the future, Leonardo is in the holodeck, making his inventions and he invents a flying machine. It is wonderful to watch the Captain interact with him.

Image source - Star Trek database

Da Vinci Codex Ashburnham

Codex Ashburnham
Codex Ashburnham

A few pages of Leonardo's Notebooks, dated to between 1489 and 1492. This codex was found in Ashburnham House in Surrey, England and is now held at the Institute of France in Paris. Mostly just architecture notes and comments.

Image source - German Wikipedia

Ever After - Leonardo da Vinci

One of my all time favourite love stories is the movie Ever After starring Drew Barrymore. She plays Danielle in this medieval French version of the story of Cinderella. This movie also has Leonardo da Vinci in it (he was in France at the time he died in 1519) and in this part, he does his walking on water experiment. All this takes place in the first half of part 5.

Da Vinci Codex Atlanticus


The Codex Atlanticus consists of over 1100 pages of Leonardo's writings and drawings spread over 12 volumes and written between 1478 and 1519. This codex contains some of Leonardos most famous drawings and because it is the largest collection of pages from Leonardos notebooks, it is considered to be the most important..

One of the most famous drawings in this codex is that of the heliocopter - or helicopter as we call it today.

This codex is currently held at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Italy. Right now (2011) the pages of this codex are on display to the general public and will be displayed until the year 2015 - see video below.

Image source - Wikipedia

DaVinci Codex Atlanticus

DaVinci Codex Forster

Codex Forster
Codex Forster

The smallest of all the notebooks, these are 3 sheets, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. They were written in between 1490 and 1493 and contain notes and diagrams on geometry, weights, mechanics and hydraulic machines.

Image source - German Wikipedia

The Madrid Codices by Leonardo Da Vinci

Codex Madrid
Codex Madrid

In 1966, 2 notebooks were discovered in the National Library of Madrid. These notebooks were bound in red moroccan leather and together they hold 197 pages on geometry and mechanics.

Image source - Leonardo Da Vinci, Treatises on Mechanics and Geometry from Codices Madrid I and II - This webpage is in SPANISH.

Royal Windsor Folios by Leonardo DaVinci

Leonardo's Study of a horse
Leonardo's Study of a horse

The Windsor Folios, which include many of Leonardo's drawings of horses, are held in the Royal Library in Windsor Castle.At some point Leonardo planned to create a sculpture of a horse but only got as far as making a clay model.


In August 2012 a wax cast of the Horse and Rider, said to have been cast by Leonardo da Vinci, is beng unveiled in Los Angeles.

Image source - Leonardo's Study of a Horse - Wikipedia

Your turn to talk - What astounds you the most about Da Vinci? - Are you more of a fan of Leonardo Da Vinci as an Artist or a Scientist?

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    • TeacherSerenia profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @SheGetsCreative: Thanks upon. Appreciate it.

    • TeacherSerenia profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @PhilVardy: Thanks EI

    • PhilVardy profile image


      5 years ago

      I love Da Vinci and I love this lens! :)

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Beautiful lens on one of history's most fascinating and talented people.

    • Millionairemomma profile image


      6 years ago

      He was an excellent artist! Lovely lens.

    • oxfordian profile image


      6 years ago

      Beautiful, beautiful lens. I'm a big Leinardo fan and I will never forget seeing his notebooks in person.

    • ChristyMarieKent profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting lens! I need to go check out some of those books ...

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      6 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Happy New Year! Congratulations on your lens being chosen as a top 100 Community Favorite for 2011!

    • krakensquid profile image


      6 years ago

      Fantastic lens, very well written and full of great information! He truly was a genius, there's no doubt about it.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida


    • CoeGurl profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Wonderfu lens! Leonardo was a genius, indeed. I never tire of looking at his drawings.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice tribute to a brilliant scientist and painter. Congratulations on being one of the final 100 favorite Squidoo lenses of 2011!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I was not at all familiar with Leonardo's notebooks. Very interesting!

    • Auntiekatkat profile image


      6 years ago

      Congrats on being nominated for Community Favorite Lenses of 2011. A wonderful lens. Fortunately we both share one thing it was easier to vote than for most as mine was my "why-I-am a- vegetarian was nominated as well. A proud moment for all of us. Good luck in the voting.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Loved that Leonardo was the "Fairy Godmother" in Ever After. Great lens. New Years Blessings.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 

      6 years ago from Connecticut

      Congrats on making the top 100 community favorites!

    • MCB2011 profile image


      6 years ago

      Unique lens. Congratulations!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Yes, Leonardo was truly a Genius. Congrats on being in the Top 100 Community Favorites.

    • snazzify lm profile image

      Katie Harp 

      6 years ago

      blessed by a squid angel :) <3

    • Paul Ward profile image


      6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Great idea for a lens - Leonardo's Notebooks could keep you busy for years :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I also enjoy Leonardo the inventor much better that Leonardo the artist. I would have loved to have a conversation with him.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      6 years ago from Iowa

      I went to an exhibit this year featuring his codexes and notebooks. The man was such a genius.


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