Explore Leonardo da Vinci's notebook: Codex Forster I

Famous worldwide as the painter of such masterpieces as the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) is also renowned for his notebooks in which he recorded his thoughts and inventions. Five of these fascinating notebooks, bound into three small volumes, have been in our collection since 1876 when they were bequeathed to the Museum by John Forster.

Collectively known as Codex Forster, they date from about 1487 to 1505 and reflect Leonardo's highly inquisitive mind. Codex Forster I contains both the earliest notebook we hold (from folio 41, about 1487 – 90, Milan) and the latest (up to folio 40, 1505, Florence). Written in Leonardo's famous 'mirror-writing', the subjects explored within range from hydraulic engineering to a treatise on measuring solids.

Background image: Forster I, National Art Library, Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/I