The Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci

The long history of a manuscript

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 2. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 2. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

The Notebook of Leonardo conserved today in the Biblioteca Trivulziana is a paper manuscript, small in size, in which – within a few years, from 1487 to 1490 – the artist sketched drawings showing studies of physiognomy, architectural drafts for the Cathedral and other buildings in the city, diagrams of mechanical instruments and war machines. At the end Leonardo added in his own hand, in his characteristic mirror writing, long lists of words that document his attempt to enlarge his own vocabulary.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 15. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 15. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Note on the use of the inverted arch.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 13. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 13. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Bastion overlooking the castle's moat.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 59. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 59. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

List of Latinisms and scholarly terms.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 37 (bound upside down). Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 37 (bound upside down). (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

List of scholarly words.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 65. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 65. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Motto on the senses and reason.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Front cover Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Front cover (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

A precious inheritance

On Leonardo’s death, the Notebook was bequeathed to his pupil Francesco Melzi, who marked it with the letter F. Along with other of his manuscripts, at the end of the 16th century it came into the possession of sculptor Pompeo Leoni. In 1632 it was purchased by Count Galeazzo Arconati, who donated it in 1637 to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana but reacquired it in exchange for Manuscript D. All traces of the codex are lost until the mid-18th century, when Carlo Trivulzio (1715-1789) bought it from Gaetano Caccia of Novara in exchange for a second-hand «silver repeating clock».

Ancient binding but not original, parchment with alumed leather laces.

Call mark (letter “F”) affixed by Francesco Melzi after Leonardo’s death.

Call number (number “.5”) affixed by Pompeo Leoni at the end of the 16th century.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 102. Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 102. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Shelf mark of the Codex (Ge 55) written by Pompeo Leoni by the end of the XVI Century.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Guard sheet Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Guard sheet (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Call mark (letter “S”) affixed to the manuscript in the Ambrosiana library after its donation by Galeazzo Arconati in 1637.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Additional dossierArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Attached dossier written by Don Carlo Trivulzio (1715-1789) who had bought the manuscript around 1750.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Sub-back cover. Codex Trivulzianus 2162. Sub-back cover. (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Bookplate with the coat-of-arms of Gian Giacomo Trivulzio (1839-1902), Prince of Musocco, pasted in about 1880.

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 44 (bound upside down). Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 44 (bound upside down). (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Collation

[PAG. 43] The long passage of the Codex Trivulzianus down the centuries through the hands of the various owners is documented by its current state of codicology, with some bundles bound upside down and the loss of about ten sheets, which happened many centuries ago. In fact the modern page numbering in red ink runs from 1 to 102, for a total of 51 sheets, but the older foliation in brown ink, still visible, bears witness to the previous existence of at least 62 sheets. The binding is old but not original and has been re-sewn several times to the textblock. 

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 33 (bound upside down). Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 33 (bound upside down). (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 41 (bound upside down). Codex Trivulzianus 2162, p. 41 (bound upside down). (1487-1490) by Leonardo da VinciArchivio Storico Civico e Biblioteca Trivulziana

The Codex Trivulzianus at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan

In 1935 the Municipality of Milan acquired a great part of the Trivulzio art and book collections, including Leonardo’s Notebook. The Trivulzio library collections, under the name of Biblioteca Trivulziana, became part of the already-existing Archivio Storico Civico and were placed in the Cortile della Rocchetta of Castello Sforzesco, where they remain today. Thus, after more than four hundred years, Leonardo’s manuscript returned to places that still recall his presence in Milan at the end of the fifteenth century.

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