Bill Gates has agreed to lend The Leicester Codex by Leonardo da Vinci to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence for the first time in 20 years. The manuscript will go on display from October 2018 until January 2019, to mark the Renaissance master’s 500th anniversary of his death. Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt said it would be the first time the Codex was shown in Italy since 1995, at the Palazzo Querini Dubois in Venice. Its last appearance in Florence was in 1982 when it was the focus of a large show that attracted thousands of visitors. “It is coming back to Italy by an agreement”, Schmidt said, “on which intense work was done since 2015 when the Codex was shown in Minneapolis”.
The display will mark the 500th anniversary of Da Vinci’s death
The manuscript, titled, On the Nature, Weight and Motion of Water focuses on scientific subjects, was purchased by Bill Gates in 1994 from the American billionaire Armand Hammer. Written between the years of 1506 and 1510, the 72-page notebook provides a rare glimpse inside da Vinci’s mind, complete with sketches, diagrams, and early iterations of ideas. The Codex Leicester is just one of 30 scientific journals Da Vinci is believed to have authored, but many consider it the most important.
Named after Thomas Coke, later created Earl of Leicester, who purchased it in 1719, of Da Vinci’s 30 scientific journals, the Codex is considered one of the most important of Da Vinci’s studies. The manuscript currently holds the record for the second highest sale price of any book sold. Gates purchased the manuscript through Christie’s in November 1994 in New York for US$30,802,500
The manuscript does not take the form of a single linear script but is rather a mixture of Leonardo’s observations and theories on astronomy; the properties of water, rocks, and fossils; air, and celestial light.
The topics addressed include an explanation of why fossils can be found on mountains. Hundreds of years before plate tectonics became an accepted scientific theory, Leonardo believed that mountains had previously formed sea beds, which were gradually lifted until they formed mountains.
The movement of water is the main topic of the Leicester Codex. Among other things, Leonardo wrote about the flow of water in rivers, and how it is affected by different obstacles put in its way. From his observations, he made recommendations about bridge construction and erosion.
The luminosity of the moon is also covered. Leonardo speculated that the moon’s surface was covered by water, which reflects light from the sun. In this model, waves on the water’s surface cause the light to be reflected in many directions, explaining why the moon is not as bright as the sun. Leonardo explained that the pale glow on the dark portion of the crescent moon is caused by sunlight reflected from the Earth. Thus, he described the phenomenon of planet-shine one hundred years before the German astronomer Johannes Kepler proved it.
The Codex provides an insight into the inquiring mind of the definitive Renaissance artist, scientist and thinker as well as an exceptional illustration of the link between art and science and the creativity of the scientific process. It consists of 18 sheets of paper, each folded in half and written on both sides, forming the complete 72-page document. At one time the sheets were bound together, but they are now displayed separately. It was handwritten in Italian by Leonardo, using his characteristic mirror writing, and supported by copious drawings and diagrams.