Future exhibits

Leonardo's Library: The World of a Renaissance Reader

Leonardo exhibit to show May 2 – October 13, 2019 in Green Library

Poster announcing Leonardo's Library exhibitStanford Libraries presents Leonardo’s Library: The World of a Renaissance Reader, opening May 2, 2019 in the Green Library Bing Wing. Spearheaded by history professor Paula Findlen, the exhibition draws on Stanford’s Special Collections and the collections of the David Rumsey Map Center and the Lane Medical Library to reveal the authors and texts that shaped Leonardo’s world and influenced his ideas, reading habits, and understanding of books in the age of Gutenberg.

Five hundred years after his death on May 2, 1519, the name Leonardo da Vinci has the status of myth. Perhaps the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo was a lifelong learner whose diverse interests led him to pursue learning in multiple ways. As an artist, engineer, and keen observer of the physical world who produced iconic paintings and an astounding range of drawings, he relied on both direct experience and written sources to inform his theories and inventions. His library, which we know only through various lists and surviving reading notes he made in his notebooks, indicates that he was widely read and deeply curious about the printed book as one of the Renaissance’s greatest innovations. Written sources—both manuscripts and printed books—played a key role in the formation of his ideas.

Stanford’s collections of early printed books and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts form the nucleus of the exhibition in Green Library, allowing us to look closely at books that Leonardo is known to have owned, borrowed, or otherwise read, based on what he tells us about his lost library in his notebooks. The exhibit also displays examples of other Renaissance readers writing and drawing in our copies of these books as well as a collection of Stanford’s most interesting Florentine manuscripts closely associated with Leonardo’s world. Focusing on the 52 items selected for the show, Findlen engaged undergraduate and graduate students in exploring themes related to Leonardo’s life and work—among them classical and vernacular literacy, philosophy, natural history, human anatomy and veterinary medicine, religion, astronomy, architecture, mathematics, optics, and cartography—and to consider the question, How might Leonardo have engaged with this text? The resulting exhibition offers a window on the world of the Renaissance reader in general, and Leonardo in particular.

A catalogue of the exhibition, Leonardo’s Library: The World of a Renaissance Reader, will be published by the library in conjunction with the exhibition.

Leonardo’s Library will be on display in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda exhibit cases May 2 – October 13, 2019.

Note: Exhibit cases in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda are illuminated daily 

from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to call 650-723-0931 or visit http://library.stanford.edu/libraries_collections/hours_locations.html to confirm hours.

The exhibition is free and open to the public; first-time visitors and those without Stanford ID must register using a government-issued ID at either of the entrances to Green Library before entering the building.