Water as Microscope of Nature

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester

P31 1 cartinaAlone among Leonardo’s manuscripts, the Codex Leicester circulated extensively. It aroused the interest of some of the protagonists of the renewal of natural sciences in later generations.

The map illustrates the European-wide circulation of the Codex and of its copies.


ROME, ca. 1537-1717
In 1537, the Codex Leicester is owned by the sculptor Guglielmo della Porta, while in 1689 it is the property of the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi.

FLORENCE, ca. 1717
The future Earl of Leicester acquires the Codex and takes it to Florence to have one copy made, from which others were later produced.

LONDON, 1719-1759
The Codex and the copy made in Florence are kept in the Earl of Leicester’s London home, frequented by the leading English scientists of the day.

NAPLES, second half 18th century – early 19th century
A copy of the Codex Leicester is present in Naples, at a time when Vesuvius was experiencing intense eruptive activity.

PARIS, 1769
In his Voyage en Italie, Jérôme Lalande mentions the studies on the Moon’s Earthshine in the Codex Leicester.

Florence, 1813
Giacomo Leopardi mentions the presence of a copy of the Codex Leicester in Florence.

WEIMAR, ca. 1818
On the advice of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a copy of the Codex Leicester is acquired by the Grand-Ducal Library in Weimar.