Bill Gates And British Library Launch Rare Da Vinci Mancuscripts On Windows Vista

By Graham Spicer | 30 January 2007
screenshot of a digitised image of an old notebook

Digitisation of the codices will be a boon for scholars. Courtesy British Library

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was at the British Library on January 30 2007 to announce a Leonardo da Vinci digitisation project that coincides with the launch of his new Windows Vista computer operating system.

The Turning the Pages 2.0 project brings together da Vinci’s groundbreaking technical notebooks, Codex Arundel and Codex Leicester, which are now available to view online using the new Windows Vista system.

Codex Arundel is one of the British Library’s greatest treasures while Codex Leicester is owned by Gates himself. They have not been shown together since the dispersal of da Vinci’s manuscripts in the 16th century.

The books are compilations of his diagrams and sketches on subjects as diverse as mechanics, engineering, optics and the properties of the moon.

screenshot of a digitised image of an old notebook

Codex Arundel (pictured) is in the British Library while Codex Leicester is owned by Bill Gates. Courtesy British Library

Turning the Pages 2.0 lets internet users browse high resolution versions and compare the volumes side-by-side, magnify and rotate the pages and even reverse Leonardo’s famous mirror writing so they can view it the ‘right’ way round.

“It’s a privilege to participate in any project that has the potential to increase our understanding of the ideas and achievements of this remarkable man,” said Gates.

“Turning the Pages 2.0 is a great tool for making these amazing works accessible to people from around the world, and it demonstrates the power of Windows Vista as a platform for connecting people to information.”

Professor Martin Kemp, one of the world’s foremost da Vinci experts, said: “The Codex Arundel is the second biggest single compilation of Leonardo pages…It is incredibly important to have it available as a scholar.”

photo of a man in suit and glasses stood next to a smartly dressed woman on a staircase next to a wall of books

Bill Gates with Lynne Brindley on a previous visit to the British Library. Courtesy British Library

“I have privileged access…but even for me it is difficult to consult the originals when I need to do so. To have this material online, available at the touch of a button, is just amazing and wonderful,” he added.

The reunited da Vinci notebooks will be displayed on the British Library website alongside the existing Turning the Pages digitised books. These include the Lindisfarne Gospels, Mozart’s musical diary and the world’s oldest printed book, the 9th century Diamond Sutra, which have also been converted to the Windows Vista format.

If you don’t have Windows Vista don’t worry - all the Turning the Pages works can also be viewed in a ‘Shockwave’ version – see the British Library website for details of how to view them.

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