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Home / News / Exhibition: “Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos” at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Exhibition: “Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos” at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Leonardo da Vinci is commonly known as the great inventor of creative machines, the artist of the famous drawing of the Vitruvian Man. But Leonardo was also an avid reader: his personal library contained nearly 200 books on science and technology, literature, and religion. Supported in part by NOMIS, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), with the Museo Galileo and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, has now reconstructed the lost book collection for the exhibition “Leonardo’s Intellectual Cosmos,” where visitors can marvel at many of these outstanding old works.

The exhibition will run from May 11 to June 28, 2021, at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Saal, subject to pandemic regulations. An online vernissage, streamed on YouTube, will also take place on May 10 from 17:00 to 19:00. The exhibition illuminates the intellectual cosmos of Leonardo through some of the most precious books and illustrations of his time. The innovative virtual exhibition also enables visitors to dive into the intellectual world of the renowned artist-scientist.

Which works did Leonardo read? What knowledge did he possess when he embarked on his own studies? The reconstruction of his library and of how it developed throughout his life offers a new perspective that shows Leonardo as a man of letters–as an intellectual striving to find the connections between microcosm and macrocosm in all aspects of nature, as well as of human existence. Since his own books have unfortunately been lost over time, the exhibition presents comparable contemporary works made available by various Berlin libraries. In addition to books, visitors can also admire objects including printing cabinets and a printing press, providing a unique insight into Leonardo’s atelier as well as the context of his life.

“The exhibition is truly eye-opening and makes the rich intellectual world behind Leonardo’s great creations visible,” says Prof. Dr. Jürgen Renn, director of the MPIWG and one of the two leaders of the Leonardo’ Intellectual Cosmos project. “It is but a small exhibition, but as Leonardo remarked, ‘every part of a thing contains something of the nature of the whole‘.”

Continue reading this MPIWG release

Header image: © Museo Galileo – Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza


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Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in Berlin
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
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