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Leonardo da Vinci

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jan hendrik niemeyer - since 1992 -


Leonardo’s Belt Exercise Books

for that

the thought could go hand in hand with the writing down

Leonardo da Vinci. I Codici Forster. 3 manuscript vols. C. 1493-1505. Full facsimiles in the original size (3⅝-5⅝ × 2½-4 in [9.2-14.4 × 6.3-10 cm], 55, 160, 89 ll., countless illustrations, untrimmed) and the original colors (red chalk and brown pen). With 3 transcription vols. together with commentary vols. in Italian (12⅞ × 9⅛ in [32.7 × 23.3 cm], XXVIII, 70 pp., 3 ll.; 1 l., XXII, 144 pp., 1 l.; 1 l., XIV, 60 pp., 1 l.; two sides untrimmed). Ed. by Augusto Marinoni. (1992.) Imit. vellum wrappers with cord + little rods (of these vol. I intentionally not hooked into) and orig. stitching with wrappers of laid paper resp. in 3 dark brown, silk lined orig. leather Solander boxes with ornamental raised bands and gilt back title.

EDIZIONE NAZIONALE. – One of 998 copies (+ XXV outside of the trade). – Titles in red + black.

“ A great written and artistic treasure by Leonardo was in the Ambrosiana at Milan till 1796 … and 5 in even smaller size, probably study books which hanging at his belt the artists always carried with him to make sketches and notes … ”


Thus those nucleuses of the coming into being which are so far ahead of the complete as being most intimate witnesses of that constant unrest as it is peculiar to volcanoes. And never anyone has been more unrest than Leonardo, unable “to complete creations which even in their ruins will have aftereffects through many centuries” (Rosenberg). Their first, spontaneous convulsions manifest themselves, however, in these exercise books and lead into the width and depth of a mind

“ which  to  create  is  no  longer  in  the  might  of  nature ”

as the young Melzi instinctively felt in view of the dead and as posterity still confirms centuries later (Rosenberg).

Exercise books of this kind then the present ones, too, which came down to Melzi like all other manuscripts of the master and were still together at his death (1570), but then in essential parts finally passed into the hands of Pompeo Leoni (d. 1610), 1st sculptor at the court of Philip II, to be then dispersed.

Thematically  they  comprise  amongst  many  other  things
important  studies  and  insights  on  geometry ,
hydraulics  and  physics  just  as
observations  of  natural  runs , on  cosmology  and  mind  while
numerous  horse  sketches  (vol. III)
are  obviously  meant  for  the  grandiosely  designed  equestrian  monument
for  Francesco  Sforza  of  Milan  whose  not  completed  model
was  destroyed  by  exuberant  soldiery  in  1499 .

But even the crafty decorator of the masked balls and feasts of the Milan court unveils in these. Fascinating and beautiful sketches and drawings these, too, examples of the constant rotating of the universal genius.

Written in his typical manner from right to left the entries in red chalk are considered as those done on the road while the ones made at home were written with the pen. As temporally earliest clue 1493 results. This in contradiction to Leonardo’s note on p. 3 of the first volume to have started it July 12, 1505.

These codices connected with the name of John Forster as the last prepossessor (1873-1876) are downright determined to advance “collecting from a question of possession (to one) of education”. For

“ The  collector  increases  the  pleasure  at  his  possession

by  the  joys  of  the  explorer .

(And this) activity of the collector has the edge before other means of education

that  it  cultivates  powers .

Powers  of  the  senses , the  mind  and  the  soul ”

(Alfred Lichtwark).

Therefore witness how here “the universalistic humanity of the Italian Renaissance experienced its richest personification and (how) that penetration of art and science … took place that deep with none of its representatives as with Leonardo.

“ Just his achievements on the natural scientific and technical fields would be sufficient to ensure him an excellent place in the history of mankind – as artist he belongs … to the completors of the Renaissance ”


This  infinite  plenty  you  meet  here  at  its  purest  source .

You take the study books into your hand and feel yourself quite close to the originals. So perfectly they have been made.

By  a  house

that  already  was  contemporary  of  Leonardo !

That was present in Florence even before the first entry in 1493 !

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