Leonardo’s Library at the Museo Galileo

Exhibition highlights the Renaissance master’s rapport with words

Editorial Staff
June 7, 2019 - 12:03

The newest exhibition at the Museo Galileo, Leonardo and His Books: The Library of the Universal Genius, explores the Renaissance master’s rapport with the written word, dedicating space to one of the least explored facets of Leonardo’s life and career.


Running until September 22, 2019, the exhibition offers a glimpse into the educated mind of Leonardo, a mind that continues to fascinate even 500 years after his death. Often described as “an unlettered man,” he was anything but, boasting almost 200 volumes in his possession, an extraordinary number for a 15th-century artist and engineer. To date, only one of these books has been found, a treatise on architecture and engineering now conserved at the Laurentian Library in Florence, which contains original notes written by Leonardo himself.


Leonardo da Vinci, List of Books, c. 1495
Codex Atlanticus, f. 559r, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan


For the first time ever, the exhibition attempts to recreate the library through a chronological itinerary that highlights Leonardo’s use of books and the written word. The show features manuscripts and incunables utilized by Leonardo alongside multimedia devices for visitors to “leaf” through the texts and compare them with the master’s own codices. The exhibition also vaunts a reconstruction of the artist’s studio, where visitors can find writing tools and drawings once used by the master.


Leonardo and his Books is curated by Carlo Vecce and staged in collaboration with the National Edition of Manuscripts and Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The Museo Galileo has also organized a digital exhibition on its website, offering visitors outside Florence the chance to explore the world of Leonardo and his library.

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