12 December 2007

Out of The Fog

Now that my stomach has decided that standing is not viscious attack, let's do an attractive "This Day In History" when Armand Hammer picked up a little something while visiting England.

After Leonardo's death in 1519 Francesco Melzi, his favourite pupil, brought many of his manuscripts and drawings back to Italy described at the time as "those little books by Leonardo about the anatomy, and many other interesting things". In addition to the manuscripts and drawings, Leonardo also willed Melzi , "cash, clothing, books, drawings, painting instruments and portraits". Despite the passage of almost 500 years, over five thousand pages of drawings and notes have come down to us. The writings need not only to be translated but decoded from his characteristic "mirror-image" hand-writing, running from right to left.

Leonardo's manuscripts are today nothing like the way they appeared and were grouped together during his lifetime. It was Melzi's heirs who, after his death in 1579, began to scatter the material. Having no idea of their importance, they initially stored Leonardo's drawings and manuscripts in a loft, later giving parts of it away or selling sheets cheaply to friends and collectors.

The most famous of the groupings are 72 pages (The Codex Leicester) purchased by Thomas Coke, the first Earl Leicester in 1717 and held by the estate until 1980 when it was purchased at auction by Armand Hammer for five million dollars. It became known as the "Hammer Codex" until purchased by Bill Gates in 1994 for 31 Million at an auction in New York. The Codex has been scanned and many of the images are now on line and are available on disk to use as wall paper.

The notebook details Leonardo's scientific observations from 1508 to 1509. What makes it unique is that it focuses on many of his engineering inventions and equipment usage with the analysis of movement of the water is a central theme, together with studies of geology (fossils, the circulation of water and natural disasters) and astronomy. There are also sketches and studies of cosmology and of the reflected light of the Moon.


Mags said...

:) I'm glad you're feeling better!

Matt-Man said...

Interesting post. I'll be sure to check out some of these links. Glad to hear that you are feeling somewhat human again. Cheers Jamie!!

Travis said...

Do you suppose that Leonardo could have imagined that one day his art and scientific drawings would decorate the homes of middle class citizens?