Leonardo da Vinci is commonly known as the great inventor of creative machines, the artist of the famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man. But Leonardo was also an avid reader: his personal library contained nearly 200 books on science and technology, literature, and religion. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), with the Museo Galileo, the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Museum für NAturkunde Berlin as cooperation partner, has now reconstructed the lost book collection for the exhibition “Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos,” where visitors can marvel at many of these outstanding old works.
The exhibition runs until July 17, 2021, at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Saal. Admission is free, but advance booking is necessary. The exhibition illuminates the intellectual cosmos of Leonardo through some of the most precious books and illustrations of his time. The innovative virtual exhibition also enables visitors to dive into the intellectual world of the renowned artist-scientist.
Which works did Leonardo read? What knowledge did he possess when he embarked on his own studies? The reconstruction of his library and of how it developed throughout his life offers a new perspective that shows Leonardo as a man of letters—as an intellectual striving to find the connections between microcosm and macrocosm in all aspects of nature, as well as of human existence. Since his own books have unfortunately been lost over time, the exhibition presents comparable contemporary works made available by various Berlin libraries. In addition to books, visitors can also admire objects including printing cabinets and a printing press, providing a unique insight into Leonardo's atelier as well as the context of his life.
The exhibition is based on the work of Leonardo scholar Prof. Dr. Carlo Vecce and the exhibition “Leonardo and His Books: The Library of the Universal Genius,” shown at the Museo Galileo in Florence in 2019. It is organized in cooperation with the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin–Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Museo Galileo, Italian Embassy in Berlin–Ambasciata d’Italia Berlino, NOMIS Foundation, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften e.V., Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin–Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Stiftung Planetarium Berlin–Standort Archenhold Sternwarte, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.
June 21, 2021: Lecture – Leonardo’s Manuscript-Layout
Frank Fehrenbach explores how Leonardo da Vinci designed his manuscripts with a particular focus on the avoidance of line breaks at the end of the pages–and the rare cases in which a “spillover” still occurs.
June 28, 2021: Music Evening – Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos
Luca Lombardi‘s composition "Josquin Desprez & Leonardo da Vinci in Berlin", played by Ensemble United, celebrates its world premiere live at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. The event forms part of a special Monday opening of the exhibition "Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos ."