Archive for December 6th, 2010

Da Vinci manuscript uncovered in French library

Monday, December 6th, 2010

A fragment of a manuscript written by Leonardo da Vinci was rediscovered by a local journalist in a library in Nantes, France. The journalist read in a biography of Leonardo of the manuscript’s existence in Nantes. He then tracked the manuscript fragment down in the library.

One of 5,000 documents bequeathed to the city by collector Pierre-Antoine Labouchere in 1872, the rare autograph was filed away and promptly forgotten for the next 130 plus years. The new Mozart composition found in the same library two years ago was also part of the Labouchere collection. Someone needs to go through those archives with a fine-toothed comb, obviously.

Experts have yet to decipher the few lines of text because it is written from right to left in Leonardo’s trademark mirror-writing style and the words are from arcane, 15th century Italian as well as other languages.

The artist is known to have written most of his notes back to front, from left to right and reversing each letter, only using standard writing if he intended documents to be read by others.

The legend that has grown from his mirror-writing is that he was intentionally coding his notes to hide them from prying eyes, but this is a result of questionable scholarship in the late 17th-early 18th centuries. His contemporaries often referred to his left-handedness as the reason for his right-to-left script.

When Leonardo wanted to write in code, he invented an actual code. That was, you know, hard to crack. Not just something that can be figured out with a little practice and a mirror. He was just able to write more quickly right-to-left and without smearing the ink, so that’s why his notes are backwards.

He also painted using his left hand, again something considered notable among his contemporaries. Michelangelo was left-handed, but only one biographer ever mentioned it, perhaps because unlike Leonardo, Michelangelo forced himself to learn how to paint right-handed as there was still a stigma attached to using the “sinister” hand.

da Vinci manuscript found in Nantes library

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