When I graduated from college and had to choose between a career in industry or academics, I found it to be an easy decision: I stayed in academics. I like to have my head in the clouds and enjoy the intellectual lifestyle. (I actually consider the label of “absentminded” to be a compliment.)
It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a book has been the opportunity to research my subject. My reading list has included books on analytic design, illustration, anatomy, typesetting, scientific communication, web technologies, LaTeX, the history of science, statistics and informational graphics. And as I worked my way through it, I took some extremely interesting side trips. One of the most intriguing, however, was an extended tangent through the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Da Vinci died in the year 1519, nearly five hundred years ago. Yet, the modern world remains fascinated by him. His name adorns the side of best selling books and conspiracy fiction; and his drawings have become cultural icons. As an example of his popularity:
In October of 2009, Martin Kemp, a professor of art and history at the University of Oxford, found a portrait of an Italian girl. Up until Kemp took an interest, it was widely accepted that portrait had been painted sometime in the nineteenth century by an unknown artist. After a great deal of investigation and the use of a multispectral camera, however, Kemp discovered something startling. The painting had actually been done by Leonardo and nearly overnight, it went from a value of 19,000 British pounds to over 100 million.
I’m no different than the masses. Leonardo fascinates me. He had a very distinctive way of seeing the world and an engaging style. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to lose yourself in the details of his work. Given my interest, a thorough study of Leonardo’s notebooks seemed only natural.
What I didn’t foresee, however, is that I would start to digitally collect his sketches; and in the past several months, I’ve put together a rather eclectic mix from across the internets. Earlier today, I realized that the images might be of interest to others as well; thus, I’ve created a special online gallery for them. It can be found under “Art and Photography” –> “The DaVinci Notebooks” To get there more quickly, you could also just click here.
Update (2011-09-08): Due to problems with the Gallery 2 Plugin for WordPress, I have removed the Da Vinci Gallery. I will replace it with something else in the near future. For now, thought, the link is dead.