The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London shared scans of two of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks so visitors can digitally zoom and flip through the drawings of the Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and sculptor. Jumbled together from the delicate journals are ideas on both science and art–detailed graphs and speculations contained on the very same pages as observational sketches of hats or horse hooves.
Da Vinci is thought to have begun recording his thoughts in notebooks throughout the 1480s while he was a military and naval scientist to the Duke of Milan. The writing contained in the diaries has been produced in 16th-century Italian”mirror-writing,” which one reads right to left. Critics have debated the reasoning behind this style, presuming it was a way to code his ideas, or simply make writing easier as a left-handed artist. “Writing masters at the time could have made demonstrations of mirror-writing, along with his letter-shapes are fairly ordinary: he used the kind of script that his father, a lawful notary, could have employed,” a post on the V&A‘s site explains. “It can decode Leonardo’s curious mirror-writing when the eye has become accustomed to the style.”
The collective name for the five laptops in the V&A’s collection is the Forster Codices. This digitized set contains his oldest (1487-90, Milan) and latest (1505, Florence) notebooks in the museum’s collection. The title for the journals comes from John Forster who bequeathed the precious functions to the museum in 1876. You may find out more about the series of notebooks in the collection onto the V&A’s website.