Recently Digitized Journals Grant Visitors Access to Leonardo da Vinci's Detailed Engineering Schematics and Musings
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London recently published scans of two of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks so website visitors can digitally zoom and flip through the drawings and musings of the Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and sculptor. Jumbled together in the delicate journals are thoughts on both science and art—detailed charts and speculations contained on the same pages as observational sketches of hats or horse hooves.
Da Vinci is believed to have started recording his thoughts in notebooks during the 1480s while he was a military and naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. The writing included in the notebooks was produced in 16th-century Italian “mirror-writing,” which one reads right to left. Scholars have debated the reasoning behind this style, believing it was either a way to code his thoughts, or simply make writing easier as a left-handed artist. “Writing masters at the time would have made demonstrations of mirror-writing, and his letter-shapes are in fact quite ordinary: he used the kind of script that his father, a legal notary, would have used,” an article on the V&A’s website explains. “It is possible to decipher Leonardo’s curious mirror-writing, once the eye has become accustomed to the style.”
The collective title for the five notebooks in the V&A’s collection is the Forster Codices. This digitized set contains his earliest (1487-90, Milan) and latest (1505, Florence) notebooks in the museum’s collection. The name for the journals comes from John Forster who bequeathed the valuable works to the museum in 1876. The V&A plans to digitize the three other notebooks found in the two volumes Codex Forster II and III, for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 2019. You can learn more about the series of notebooks in the collection on the V&A’s website. (via Boing Boing)
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Like the loop-de-loop scribbles of a child, artist Jung Lee (previously) constructed a series of neon light sculptures that were installed and photographed against cinematic landscapes as part of her series titled “No More“. Earlier neon works by the artist have focused on legible typographic phrases and words, with these new pieces taking a markedly abstract turn, perhaps in direct connection with the series’ title. The neon sculptures were installed on foggy snowbanks and reflective beaches, adding a bit of intrigue as to their intention. Photographs from the “No More” series were on view amongst several additional light installations last year at One and J Gallery. (via Fubiz)
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Calligraphy master Seb Lester (previously) has been sharing quick videos of watery handwriting experiments on his Instagram account. Each word or phrase begins with a scribble of water or an array of droplets to which he then uses a dropper to apply color. Seen here are some highlights but it hardly even scratches the surface. Much more here. (via Quipsologies)
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In true-crime books and tv shows, there’s always the point where somebody calls the handwriting profiler to do a behavioral analysis on some unknown criminal’s signature or a quick note left on a scrap of paper. Who is this person and what does their haphazard crossing of t’s and slanted letter o’s say about them? Artist Annie Vought is also fascinated by handwriting in connection to identity but in a more emotional and artistic sense.
Working with pieces of paper, the Oakland-based artist cuts sentence after sentence from large sheets of paper turning personal letters into physical objects. Sometimes the pieces are legible, meant to be read letter for letter, while others a chaotic tangle of typography, meant to covey more of a feeling than a message. She shares in an interview with the Art Museum of Sonoma County:
In the penmanship, word choice, and spelling the author is revealed in spite of him/herself. A letter is physical confirmation of who we were at the moment it was written, or all we have left of a person or a period of time. I also think a lot about the relationship between the public and the private, or more specifically about how the private side of ourselves can be made public. I want to be respectful of people, but I recognize that I’m actively exposing them through their written communications. But in the exposure is a vulnerability we all share. I’m interested in human relationships, overall— the ones we have with ourselves and others.
Of particular note in Vought’s work over the last few years is a mammoth piece titled “Gosh I’ve been here before,” a 41″ x 53″ cut paper sculpture of words and patterns that spirals like the rings of a tree. You can explore it up close and inquire about it over on Artspace. You can see a bit more of her work on Instagram and through Jack Fischer Gallery.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.