Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), vol. I; known as Codex Forster I thumbnail 1
Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), vol. I; known as Codex Forster I thumbnail 2
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On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery

Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), vol. I; known as Codex Forster I

Manuscript
c. 1487-c.1505 (written)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This volume is part of a set of five notebooks bound in three volumes (no. I and no. II are in two parts). In them, Leonardo da Vinci wrote his notes on a wide variety of subjects: perspective, light and shade, the human figure, the practice of painting, the artist's materials, the history of the art of painting, studies and sketches for pictures and decorations, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, physiology, maxims, morals, fables, jests and tales, prophecies, draughts and schemes for his humorous writings, etc.
read Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was an Italian Renaissance architect, musician, inventor, engineer, sculptor, and painter. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. His notebooks contain diagram...
interact Explore Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks: 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...
Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
paper, parchment binding
Brief description
Manuscript, Codex Forster I, notebooks by Leonardo da Vinci, Florence, c. 1487-1490 and Milan, c. 1505.
Physical description
This notebook is volume I in a set of three written by Leonardo da Vinci between 1487 and 1505. This ensemble comprises in fact five of his notebooks bound into three volumes. They contain texts, diagrams and drawings and are written in Italian, in mirror script.

Volume I contains two of these notebooks and is made up of 55 folios. They were bound together before 1608/14 and are designated as Codex Forster I1 (ff. 1-40v; begun in July 1505, Florence) and Codex Forster I2 (ff. 41r-55; compiled c.1487-1490, Milan).



The two other volumes are MSL/1876/Forster/141/II and MSL/1876/Forster/141/III.



The bindings on all three volumes (Codex Forster I-III) are, according to Nicholas Pickwoad, the result of two campaigns: the notebooks were probably sewn in their current structures with full cartonnage covers in Italy in the late 16th century, while their parchment bindings are considered to have been made in Spain in the early 17th century (see Watson 2011, p. 633).
Dimensions
  • Height: 140mm (binding)
  • Width: 100mm (binding)
Production typeUnique
Gallery label
NOTEBOOK (CODEX FORSTER I) 1505, Florence (up to folio 40) and about 1487–90, Milan (from folio 41) Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) The V&A has five of Leonardo's notebooks bound in three volumes, probably in the 17th century. This one consists of two notebooks bound together. These pages show Leonardo exploring ideas designs for hydraulic contraptions to draw water from the ground. Later, he added a sketch of an archer with a bow and arrow with notes about his posture and movements in the blank spaces left on the page, and made notes about posture and movement. Pen and ink on paper Bequeathed by John Forster Museum no. MSL/1876/Forster/141/I, ff. 43v and 44 (06/2022)
Credit line
Bequeathed by John Forster.
Object history
Among the manuscripts inherited from Leonardo by Francesco Melzi (1491/3-c.1570) and bequeathed to his son Orazio Melzi. Acquired by Pompeo Leoni (1533-1608), sculptor at the court of King Philip II of Spain. In a German-speaking country in the 19th century (inscription on f. 1r of Codex I1). Acquired by Edward Robert Bulwer- Lytton (1831-1891), first earl of Lytton, probably in Vienna (see Richter 1883, p. 490), and given to John Forster (1812-1876) before August 1865 (see letter dated 11 August 1865 of Edward Bulwer-Lytton to his wife Edith published in E. Lutyens, The Birth of Rowland: an exchange of letters in 1865 between Robert Lytton and his wife, London: Hart-Davis, 1956, p. 115); part of the Forster bequest to the Museum in 1876.
Summary
This volume is part of a set of five notebooks bound in three volumes (no. I and no. II are in two parts). In them, Leonardo da Vinci wrote his notes on a wide variety of subjects: perspective, light and shade, the human figure, the practice of painting, the artist's materials, the history of the art of painting, studies and sketches for pictures and decorations, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, physiology, maxims, morals, fables, jests and tales, prophecies, draughts and schemes for his humorous writings, etc.
Associated objects
Bibliographic references
  • J. P. Richter, The Literary Works of Leonardo, 2 vols, London: S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1883.Vol. II, esp. pp. 486-488 and 490.
  • Watson, R. Western Illuminated Manuscripts.Victoria and Albert Museum. A catalogue of works in the National Art Library from the eleventh to the early twentieth century, with a complete account of the George Reid Collection. London, 2011.Vol. II, no. 119 (with full bibliography).
  • C. Bambach, Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered, 4 vols, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019.esp. vol. 2, pp. 74-75.
Collection
Library number
MSL/1876/Forster/141/I

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Record createdFebruary 14, 2017
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