Leonardo da Vinci is commonly known as the great inventor of creative machines, the artist of the famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man. But Leonardo was also an avid reader: his personal library contained nearly 200 books on science and technology, literature, and religion. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), with the Museo Galileo and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, has reconstructed the lost book collection for the exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos," where visitors can marvel at many of these outstanding old works.
Following postponements due to the Corona pandemic, the exhibition will run from May 11 to June 28, 2021, at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Saal. Due to the pandemic, access to the exhibition will be limited. We will keep you informed about the opening, further events, and access possibilities on our events page.
You can also learn about the exhibition through a variety of multimedia sources including virtual exhibitions, feature articles, and online resources, below.
An Exhibition Without Walls
Through an innovative virtual "exhibition without walls" visitors can discover some of the most precious books and illustrations of Leonardo's time and dive into the intellectual world of the artist-scientist. The reconstruction of Leonardo's library and of how it developed throughout his life offers a new perspective on his life and work showing him as a man of letters and as an intellectual striving to see the connections between microcosm and macrocosm in all aspects of nature. The exhibition is based on the work of Leonardo expert Carlo Vecce and the exhibition "Leonardo and His Books: The Library of the Universal Genius," shown at the Museo Galileo in Florence in 2019, also offering rich materials available online.
The virtual exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" also serves as a tool for scholarly investigations.
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Discover Leonardo's Intellectual World
Since his own books have unfortunately been lost over time, the exhibition organizers went on a detective hunt to reconstruct Leonardo's library. They present a library that can be located only in Berlin: it consists of contemporary editions of Leonardo's books made available by various Berlin libraries including the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (State Library of Berlin), in particular, as well as the Kunstbibliothek (Library of Art History) and the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and the library of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.
Leonardo's intellectual world is not only exhibited through his books, but also brought to life by reproductions of codices, artworks, and objects such as printing cabinets, introducing visitors into the workshop of the artist-scientist-engineer.
The virtual exhibition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated catalogue including essays by leading Leonardo experts, available in German and in English from Giunti Editore. In addition, the virtual exhibitions of the Florentine exhibition "Leonardo and His Books: The Library of the Universal Genius" and the Berlin exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" offer free access to a wealth of materials from a list of all books owned or consulted by Leonardo, digital reproductions of the books themselves, and further information and multimedia, offering visitors to enter the laboratory of Leonardo's mind and trace his continual development as an artist and scientist.
More than 500 years after his death, the exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" provides a new look at one of the most fascinating figures in cultural history.
The exhibition "Leonardo's Intellectual Cosmos" is open at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Saal, from May 11 to June 28, 2021. Due to the pandemic, access to the exhibition will be limited. We will keep you informed about the opening, further events, and access possibilities on our events page.