The Da Vinci Code (not a Dan Brown story)

June 27, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Like Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci has gone digital. The Leonardian Library in Vinci, Tuscany is digitising Da Vinci’s work. Specifically, the Madrid Codices and the Codex Atlanticus — two collections of scientific and technical drawings – will be available as a free digital archive called e-Leo (love the name!).

The project is being financed by the European Union and will include the Windsor folios and 12 notebooks from the Institut de France. 12,000 pages of Da Vinci’s work will be available, creating the most extensive public online archive of Leonardo’s codes.

But don’t rush off just yet to check if Dan Brown had all his facts right. Apparently, you need a good grasp of 15th Century Italian to navigate your way around Da Vinci’s designs and notes. Forms in English are expected in about two months; an index of drawings in English is expected by year’s end.

Indexing the collection has been an interesting task as Da Vinci often clustered together non-related items such as technical specifications with shopping lists. Text mining company Synthema, along with engineers from the University of Florence and the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s national language institute founded in 1582, teamed up to index the great master’s work and offer semantic search functions and clustered results for delighted academics. Amongst the Codex Atlanticus is a technical drawing for a spring-propelled vehicle that perhaps inspired the Mars rover.

Over at the British Library, two of Leonardo’s notebooks are freely available for six months. The Codex Leicester is owned by Bill Gates for which he paid US$30.8 million; the other, Codex Arundel, is owned by the British Library. Go here to check it out.

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Entry filed under: Da Vinci, History, Information management, Useful resources.

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