Rare Book Profile: Dell’anatomia, a facsimile of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.

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Dell’anatomia by Leonardo da Vinci (Rome: TREC edizioni pregiate, 2005) is a compilation of anatomical studies that predate the great anatomy books of the sixteenth century.

In January 2015, the Health Sciences Library Rare Materials Collection acquired a facsimile of the anatomical drawings and notes of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), composed between 1485 and 1515, which are now housed in the Royal Library, Windsor.

Leonardo’s early training in the studio of the painter Verrocchio in Florence included study of the human figure. When he became court artist to Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan in the 1480s, he began work on drawings of human anatomy, but in the 1490s he turned his attention to other projects. As his stature as an artist, and inventor grew, so did his access to human corpses. In the early 1500s, he resumed intensive study of anatomy based on human dissection. His drawings were remarkably accurate, even by modern standards. Some of his observations, such as those on the function of the heart, were not recorded again until the 20th century. Had his work been published, as he seems to have intended, it would have been revolutionary.

At Leonardo’s death in 1519, his manuscripts and drawings were bequeathed to his student and secretary, Francesco Melzi. After Melzi died in 1579, the documents were dispersed, eventually making their way into various collections, where Leonardo’s scientific works remained unpublished until centuries after his death.

This edition, published in 2005, is based on earlier editions of 1898 and 1901. 1,999 copies were produced. The facsimile, containing 113 color plates with line drawing overlays and 380 pages of text, was printed on a special paper made in Verona, and hand-bound in gold-tooled leather. It was purchased with funds from the Charley Smyth Library Endowment, established with the Library by the Anschutz Medical Campus Retired Faculty Association, in memory of their colleague and friend Dr. Charley Smyth, founder and Head of the Division of Rheumatology in the Department of Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Rare materials are available to individuals or groups by appointment on Wednesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, or at other times by arrangement. To schedule an appointment, contact Emily Epstein, emily.epstein@ucdenver.edu or 303-724-2119.

[Emily Epstein, Cataloging Librarian]

 

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