Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)

Italy — 1505–1506

Driven by the age-old desire to fly, yet far ahead of his time: da Vinci's ingenious reflections and illustrated observations on the physics and anatomy of the flight of birds in one of his personal notebooks

  1. Leonardo da Vinci's (1452–1519) personal notebook of his observations and research concerning the flight of birds

  2. Physical, anatomical, and other considerations are accompanied by many of his masterful drawings

  3. Da Vinci's studies explore gravity and the influence of weight taking wind, movement, and anatomy

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (4)
Description
Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) comes to life again in this special artefact, above all as a gifted natural scientist: His personal notebook of observations and research on the flight of birds, the famous Codice sul volo degli uccelli, was written in 1505–1506 and represents a significant testimony to Leonardo's in-depth study of the phenomenon of bird flight. With his reflections, notes and sketches, he wanted to fathom the physical anatomical aspects of flight, in order to finally design a flying machine himself, with which he probably inspired many more generations of dreamers and inventors. The masterful drawings of the famous polymath and talented Renaissance artist also make this manuscript a true treasure of Leonardo research!

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is considered to be the most important universal genius of the Italian Renaissance. He busied himself not only with the visual arts, but was also especially passionate about researching natural phenomena. This passion has been transmitted to today in numerous written and graphical pieces of evidence. A particularly interesting and beautiful example thereof is a notebook, which is stored today in the Biblioteca Reale in Turin: the famous Codex on the Flight of Birds.

Research into one of Mankind’s Dreams

To this day, it is one of mankind’s dreams to simply spread one’s wings and float weightlessly through the air like a bird. One of the first people to concern himself with the actual fulfilment of this dream in reality was Leonardo da Vinci. For him it was no reverie, but rather an interplay of physics, weather phenomena, and anatomy that had to be explored. He recorded his observations and thoughts regarding this research in the year 1505–6 in a notebook about the flight of birds.

The Flight of Birds in Drawings and Writings

Leonardo observed the flight paths of birds and thus followed his studies of gravity and the influence of weight taking wind, movement, and anatomy into account. These statements are accompanied by numerous drawings, which record Leonardo’s observations and conclusions in complicated schematic representations. Leonardo pursued plans for a flying machine with moveable “wings” that was supposed to be based on the operating principles of the flight of birds. His studies of this theme were studied in turn by aviation pioneers like Otto Lilienthal and the Wright Brothers. This research into the flight of birds was appended with notes about the mechanics, botany, architectural plans, and water studies for the gardens of Charles d’Amboise’s villa.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli
Codex über den Vogelflug
Codex über den Flug der Vögel
Códice sobre el Vuelo de los Pájaros
Size / Format
34 pages / 21.3 × 15.4 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1505–1506
Language
Illustrations
Numerous fascinating drawings and studies on the physics and anatomy of bird flight
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)
Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Ottaviano, 2013
Limited Edition: 499 copies

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Giunti Editore – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)
Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Giunti Editore – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)
Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2019
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

Diagram of a Mechanical Arm

Complete with notes from Leonardo da Vinci’s own hand, which he wrote in mirror-writing like all his notebooks, this is a detailed depiction of a mechanical arm, presumably used for flapping the wing of a flying machine. Two pulleys are shown suspended above the main arm and attached to a cross-member, which in turn powers the wing’s movements. It is obvious from its curved shape and the placement of the joints that this mechanical arm is modelled on the skeletal structure of a bird’s wing.

Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli
Single Page

Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds

Instructions for Operating a Flying Machine

Folio 8r has 6 diagrams of birds in flight, which are used to illustrated what to do in various scenarios while flying. As with his other notebooks, the left-handed Leonardo used mirror-image cursive (written entirely backwards and from right to left), various symbols, and shorthand for the text, which has individual paragraphs for each respective drawing.

Each of these simple yet clear images shows a bird maneuvering in flight with lines indicating whether it is dealing with a tailwind or a headwind. They are used to model various situations one might encounter while operating a flying machine. Each scenario is described in the passage to the left of its respective drawing and provided with a solution.

Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli
Facsimile Editions

#1 Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli

Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Ottaviano, 2013

Publisher: Collezione Apocrifa Da Vinci – Ottaviano, 2013
Limited Edition: 499 copies
Binding: Parchment binding in leather map
Commentary: Language: Italian
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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#2 Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli

Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976

Publisher: Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976
Binding: Printed on handmade paper and bound in Fabriano paper Presented with commentary volume in leather-covered case with gold embossing
Commentary: 1 volume (90 pages) by Augusto Marinoni
Languages: English and French
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#3 Il Codice sul volo degli uccelli

Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976
Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Giunti Editore – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy)
Leonardo da Vinci: Codex on the Flight of Birds – Giunti Editore – Biblioteca Reale di Torino (Turin, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Giunti Editore – Florence, 1976
Binding: Printed on handmade paper and bound in Fabriano paper Presented with commentary volume in leather-covered case with gold embossing
Commentary: 1 volume (90 pages) by Augusto Marinoni
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!

#4 Códice sobre el Vuelo de los Pájaros

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2019

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2019
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: Leather case with gold tooling
Commentary: 1 volume by Elisa Ruiz
Languages: Spanish, Catalan
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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