Exhibition of Rare Da Vinci Notebook Opens in Dublin

An exhibition gives Dubliners a rare chance to see Leonardo da Vinci's notebook.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 11:31 AM

LONDON, June 13, 2007 — -- He painted what is perhaps the world's most famous portrait, he was recognized as a successful engineer and anatomist during his lifetime, and more recently, he lent his name to the title of a popular and very controversial book.

Leonardo da Vinci's fame spans centuries, and now Dublin-based admirers of the artist and polymath (as well as fans of the blockbuster novel, The Da Vinci Code), will have a chance to see one reason why this is the case.

The Codex Leicester notebook, written by Leonardo between 1506 and 1510, is now on display at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. The manuscript -- comprising 36 pages in all -- offers a rare, firsthand insight into the Renaissance thinker's mind, focusing particularly on his scientific interests.

In an interview with ABC News, Professor Martin Kemp of the University of Oxford -- a leading authority on Leonardo -- said that "this notebook gives the clearest sense of Leonardo's thinking about what he called 'the body of the earth'."

"Leonardo's view was not static, he saw the earth as a living organism, a dynamic organism, and it's this view that is fully explored in the Codex Leicester notebook," said Kemp.

The manuscript focuses on a variety of subjects related to the earth's geography, as well as the properties of water, light, air, rocks, and fossils. It also includes over 300 ink illustrations and diagrams, many showing experiments carried out by the artist.

Several of the experiments in the Codex Leicester notebook actually highlight Leonardo's ability as an engineer. They include designs to make bridges stronger and help cities cope with flooding.

All of this goes to show just how far removed the 16th-century genius was from the now popular ideal of the artist as daydreamer. Instead, he lived up to his reputation as a true Renaissance man.

Dr. Michael Ryan, Director of the Chester Beatty Library, told ABC News that "Leonardo da Vinci was extremely rational, practical, and frankly, brilliant. He read widely and was very knowledgeable on matters related to engineering and the sciences."