Codex Arundel

Arundel ms 263 - British Museum (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

Il Codice Arundel

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Alternate Titles

Il Codice Arundel

Extent / Format

566 pages / 29.0 x 20.5 cm

Artist / School

Leonardo Da Vinci

Former owners

Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1586-1646)

Short description

The Codex Arundel is a true treasure chest for research concerning Leonardo da Vinci. The Codex Arundel is the largest collection of Leonardo leaves that has been assembled. Named after Lord Arundel, who acquired the manuscript in the 17th century, the bundle of documents from the year 1508 until his death is comprised of notes and records about art, science, and engineering.

Facsimile editions available


Codex Arundel

Leonardo da Vinci(1452-1519) is considered to be the greatest universal genius in history. He not only left behind an unbelievable body of artistic work, but also an enormous quantity of manuscripts, in which he wrote his spontaneous thoughts, the foundations for his artistic and scientific creations, and notes about his research. These documents, notebooks or compiled single leaves, give a fascinating glimpse into Leonardo’s idea world, and this is also true of the Codex Arundel.

The Life’s Work of a Universal Genius

The Codex Arundel consists of 312 pages on 156 sheets of pasteboard. The individual sheets from his estate were first assembled after Leonardo’s death. Originally, the collection was a bundle of lose pages in various formats. The earliest part begins with March 15th, 1508, the remaining content consists of pieces of writing from various epochs in Leonardo’s life and thereby gives a wonderful overview of Leonardo’s work as a whole.

The Noble Eponym

The Codex Arundel, which is stored today in the British museum in London, is named after one of its owners. The codex is wrapped in its mysterious provenance. What happened to leaves after Leonardo’s death and who compiled them into a codex is not known. Ca. 1630, the bundle was acquired by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1586-1646), an important art collector who was well travelled. He presumably acquired the gem in Italy.

Opera, Submarines, and Sea Monsters

The Codex Arundel offers a comprehensive look into the written legacy of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo’s passion for the exploration of art, science, and engineering is made impressively apparent through the variety of notes. Be they technical drawings of mechanical equipment and operations, designs for a submarine, notes about a sea monster, a mysterious cave, or the employment of musical instruments and theater** (e.g. for the premier of Agnolo Poliziano’s Orpheus) – optics, astronomy, mathematics, and physics are just some of the themes addressed here.

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