Most people know Leonardo da Vinci from his paintings, but the artist also had the mind of an engineer, as evidenced by the hundreds of pages he used to sketch out his inventions. Now, two of the notebooks he left behind are being made available for the public to view. As The Art Newspaper reports, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has published a digitized version of Codex Forster I online.
Codex Forster I—named for John Forster, who donated the book to the museum in 1876—is a bound volume consisting of two of Leonardo's personal notebooks. Dated from 1487 to 1505, it contains both the earliest and the most recent Leonardo da Vinci notebooks in the V&A's collection.
The contents feature some of the artist's inventions related to hydraulic engineering, including devices for digging canals and adjusting water levels, as well as his thoughts on measuring solids. The text is written in "mirror-writing"—which means all the letters and words are backwards and can only be deciphered when held up to a mirror. Because he was left-handed, this method of writing allowed Leonardo to write quickly without smudging the ink.
On the Victoria and Albert Museum's website, visitors can now take their time browsing and zooming in on the pages of Codex Forster I. Uploading the notebooks made them accessible to a global audience, but that's not the only reason they were digitized: Having an online version means the museum can focus on preserving the physical copy for centuries to come, instead of handing it off to researchers and shortening its lifespan.
The two other Leonardo notebook volumes in the V&A's collection, Codex Forster II and III, haven't received the web treatment yet, but the museum plans to make them fully viewable online sometime in 2019.
[h/t The Art Newspaper]