The Codex Leicester is a 72 page manuscript handwritten in Italian by Leonardo da Vinci between 1506 and 1510. The manuscript contains many famous da Vinci drawings and scientific writings, including many of da Vinci’s observations and theories about astronomy.
The book is named after Thomas Coke, who became the Earl of Leicester, who purchased the manuscript in 1717.
The manuscript contains a mixture of da Vinci’s theories and observations on astronomy, the properties of water, rocks, fossils, air and celestial light.
The manuscript is made up of 36 pages folded in half and written on both sides to form a 72 page document. The sheets were bound together at one point, but now they are displayed separately. The Codex is written in mirror writing, meaning that it is written in the reverse direction to what is normal, and thus creating a mirror image effect.
Topics addressed in the Codex
- Why fossils can be found on Mountains – da Vinci believed that mountains were previously sea beds, which gradually rose until they formed mountains.
- The movement of water – this is the main topic of the Codex. Leonardo da Vinci wrote about how water is affected by obstacles and he made recommendations about bridge construction and erosion.
- Moonlight – da Vinci believed that water on the surface of the moon reflected light from the sun. He thought that waves on the water’s surface cause light to be reflected in many different directions, explaining why the moon is not as bright as the sun.
History of Ownership
In 1717, the manuscript was purchased by Thomas Coke, the first Earl of Leicester, after whom the book is named.
Armand Hammer, art collector and philanthropist, bought the Codex from the Leicester estate in 1980.
The Codex was purchased by Bill Gates of Microsoft in 1994. Gates paid $30.8 million for the manuscript at auction. The Codex is the only known work by da Vinci to be in private ownership.
The Codex is now displayed once a year in a different city around the world.