The manuscripts taken in 1795 from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to Paris by Napoleon are made up of twelve codices, designated by the letters A to M, conserved exactly as they appeared as when they were compiled. For this reason they constitute an exceptional document for studying Leonardo’s life and works. At times he concentrates on problems in geometry, physics or mechanics, while at other times his attention veers to audaciously conceived technology, intertwining autobiographical data with observations on literary and artistic questions about what ‘animates the soul’.
Enriched with masterful drawings, the smaller-sized manuscripts are pocket notebooks where, with acute perspicacity and quick sketches, the scientist records a fleeting thought, a surprising idea or a personal note. The larger notebooks have more elaborate writings and drawings containing outlines for treatises on hydraulic sciences and flying machines, architecture, optics and problems of vision, this latter topic related to the ‘science of the painter’ and found in a more developed form in his Treatise on Painting.
Parchment, leather or cardboard