Leonardo da Vinci

What did Leonardo da Vinci know about airplanes?


courtesy Smithsonian Institution Library


The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will be displaying Leonardo da Vinci’s “Codex on the Flight of Birds,” from Sept. 13 until Oct. 22.

The Codex – an early notebook – was created ca. 1505 and shows that da Vinci had a keen interest in human flight.

He explored bird flight and behavior and made sketches and descriptions of devices and aerodynamic principles related to mechanical flight that predate the invention of the airplane by 400 years.

In addition to displaying the original notebook, the museum is setting up interactive stations that allow visitors to virtually leaf through the 18 folios (two-sided pages) of the Codex.

A model of an ornithopter, an aircraft that flies by flapping its wings, will be on view at the entrance of the exhibition. The model is based on a drawing by da Vinci.

Can’t make it to Washington D.C. during the 40 days of this special exhibition? Here’s a short video about the Codex.


Souvenir Sunday: What would Alice do?

Although she didn’t really mean to, Alice – of Alice on Wonderland fame – ended up going on one of the wildest travel adventures ever “documented.”

Want to see the original notes of her journey?  The British Library happens to have the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well Galileo’s letters, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, manuscript scores from classical composers such as Handel, Purcell, Mozart and Schubert, and lots more.

Can’t just pop over to London to take a look-see? The next best thing might just be the British Library’s new smartphone app (iPad, iPhone, Android) which lets you page through more than 100 of the library’s treasures, including Jane Austen’s teenage writings, maps, scientific papers, an original Magna Carta 1215 and audio clips from historical figures such as Nelson Mandela.

The app isn’t free; it costs $3.99 for iPhone, iTouch and Android ($5.99 for the iPad), but there’s an introductory offer of $1.99 ($3.99 for the iPad) through January 24, 2011.

Not sure it’s worth 2 bucks?  Here’s a really lovely video that includes a sampling of what you’ll get to see on the app.

I’ve downloaded the program, but haven’t had much time to play around with it. When I do, I hope I’ll find photos and more information the world’s smallest atlas and some of the other teeny tiny books in the British Library’s collection.