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The Da Vinci Codex at the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin Castle)

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Codex Leicester - Detail

While the upper part of this page considers the centre of gravity of waters, twelve elegant drawings of siphons illustrate the text on the lower part of the page – which proposes that large bodies of water have a common centre of gravity.

© Seth Joel/Corbis - used with permission of the Chester Beatty Library

The Bottom Line

This exhibition runs from June 13th to August 12th, 2007 - make a point to visit it if you are interested in Leonardo Da Vinci's work at all. On show in the Chester Beatty Library is the complete Codex Leicester. When I say complete I am not exaggerating - the unique method of presentation makes it possible to see all original pages!

With the world being alerted to the works of renaissance genius Leonardo Da Vinci by a certain thriller, the Chester Beatty Library can be forgiven to announce this exhibition as "The Da Vinci Codex". The final title of the exhibition was far more muted: "Leonardo - the Codex Leicester".


  • Rare opportunity to study an original manuscript by Leonardo Da Vinci in full.
  • Exhibition puts Leonardo's work into a context of European, Islamic and Oriental science.
  • Free entry with ticket system preventing overcrowding.


  • Ticket system in operation - casual visitors may not be accommodated.


  • The Codex Leicester, named after its former owner, was written between 1508 and 1510 on 18 sheets.
  • Leonardo Da Vincis notes on water were known as the "Codex Hammer" for some time - due to Armand Hammer's ownership.
  • Current owner Bill Gates restored the name "Codex Leicester" and loaned the manuscript to the Chester Beatty Library.

Guide Review - The Da Vinci Codex at the Chester Beatty Library (Dublin Castle)

You get to see a complete Leonardo manuscript in every sense - the notes were written on 18 pieces of paper, folded to make up 72 pages. All covered by Leonardo's spidery handwriting (in typical mirror image), complete with marginal notes and tiny but accurate drawings. And by carefully unfolding the pages and mounting them between large glass panels the Chester Beatty Library has made the whole Codex Leicester accessible to all visitor. Subtle lighting and eye-level height makes the manuscript superbly admirable - though most people would debate any label like "readable". This is not only connected to the tightly spaced and unusual writing but also to the subject matter - the Codex Leicester is a rather dry treatise on water, composed between 1508 and 1510.

The Codex is put into a historical context by being (literally) surrounded with technical works from other authors and cultures. Highlights include a Student's Notebook (16th to 17th century), complete with moving astrological wheel, handwritten notes from printed books. Also of note are Valturius' "De Re Militari" and Renatus' "De Re Militari liber quatuor". Not to forget the Islamic books like Abu 'Ali Ibn Sina's (Avicenna) "Al-qanun fi'l-tipp" (Encyclopaedia of Medicine) from 1267, Al-Istakhri "Suwar al-aqalim" (Geography of the World) from 1292 and the magnificent "Fi ma'rifat al-hiyal al-handasiya" (Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices) by Badi' al-Zaman al-Jazari - a Muslim Leonardo, detailing fifty devices, not all practical (... neither were Leonardo's).

A final, practical note - the exhibition is free, but a ticket is required for entry. Book ahead on the website or by phoning +353-1-4070769 (Monday to Friday, 10 am to 12 noon only). Walk-in visitors simply cannot be accommodated at peak times, so plan and book to avoid disappointment. By the way - security is "airport style".

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