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_Leonardo Da Vinci’s Machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra

- Simple machines
- Composite mechanisms

- Flying machines and studies on flight
- War machines
- Machines for use with and on water
- Industrial and building machines
- Theatrical machines
- Musical machines
- Miscellaneous machines
- Geometrical studies

- Machines designed by other Renaissance engineers

- Page of simple machines
- Page of composite mechanisms

- Page of flying machines and studies on flight
- Page of war machines
- Page of machines for use with and on water
- Page of industrial and building machines
- Page of theatrical machines
- Page of musical machines
- Page of miscellaneous machines
- Page of geometrical studies

- Page of machines designed by other Renaissance engineers
001 ~ Self-supporting bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 69ar and 71v (1487-1489).



  The bridge, probably intended for military use, remains standing without any kind of fastening, thanks to the ingenious technique of interlocking joints.

002 ~ Swing bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 855r (1487-1489).


  The swing bridge was probably also one of the projects mentioned in Leonardo's letter of self-reccomendation to Ludovico the Moor.

003 ~ Canal excavating crane ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 3r e 4r (1503 - 1504)






003_ca4r _06

  Excavation is carried out by 26 workmen on two levels. The large machine has two crane booms mounted one above the other on the same vertical axis. The machine is mounted on wood tracks in the canal, and when pulled by a screw mechanism slides forward. The two crane booms function using the same rope, acting on the principle of counter-balance : the laborers work in teams so that when a bucket in the canal is full, another has already been emptied onto the embankment. The men on the embankment climb into the empty bucket which moves downward and by means of the counter-weight the rope in turn lifts the other filled bucket.

004 ~ Mechanical saw ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1078r (1500).




  The nature of and the interest in this project are clear: it is a typical study made during Leonardo's initial years of research before the period of innovation, and together with another young colleague Leonardo studies the great traditions that preceded him.

005 ~ Paddleboat ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1063 r (1487-1489).


  The mechanism transforms the reciprocating motion into a continuous rotary motion for the paddles.

006 ~ Ship’s cannon with protective shield ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 172r (1487-1489).





  This sheet, which has a red background, shows a number of ideas for a ship with a cannon and moveable protective shield.

007 ~ Steam cannon ~ Manuscript B, f. 33v (1488).

007_ca33v_ 01


  Questo cannone che fu realmente costruito duecento anni dopo che Leonardo ne aveva fermata l'idea sulla carta (durante la guerra di secessione americana), funziona utilizzando come propulsione l'espansione del vapore. Quando la culatta del cannone è incandescente, attraverso una valvola, vi si immette dell'acqua che, trasformandosi immediatamente in vapore, si espande generando la forza necessaria al lancio del proiettile.

008 ~ Ideal City ~ Manuscript B, f. 37v (1488).

008_mB37v _01


  Moving around a busy city like Renaissance Milan, he took notes and made drawings of everything he found interesting or useful for becoming an architect. Not only did he make centralized plans of existing churches and buildings, but he also added his own thoughts and innovations to the efficiency and aesthetics of the buildings. All this included much more than just Sforza Castle and the many churches he drew. There are noble palaces and stables, as well as kitchens, washhouses and anything else that makes a city efficient. He had access to classical texts as well as those by Renaissance engineers that he studied and from which he drew inspiration.
Simple machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
Simple machines are the basis necessary, indeed indispensable, to be able to correctly interpret the far more complex machines da Vinci invented.
Pulley/hoist ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 71r

    Hoists, both simple and complex, have been used from time immemorial. They are usually used to lift weights. The hoist is used to direct the pull exerted on a rope into a different direction from the force of traction. Several hoists working together can proportionally increase the force of traction.

Inclined plane ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 64v


      The inclined plane makes use of the weight of an object that slides or rolls over it in order to move it in a direction other than the perpendicular. Leonardo studies its theory and all its possible applications until he succeeds in formulating the correct thesis: that a screw is really an inclined plane coiled around an axle.

Lever ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 23r


  The outstanding mechanical tool when it comes to lifting a weight is the simple lever. It consists of a rigid beam resting on a pivot. The force or weight applied at one end is transmitted to the other end in proportion to the distance from the point where the beam meets the pivot (fulcrum). A scale is a lever with the fulcrum in the exact center of the system. The crowbar, on the other hand, is a lever which transmits enormous pressure on the end very close to the fulcrum.

Toothed gears ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 5r


  On page 5r of the Codex Madrid Leonardo deals scientifically with the idea of transmission by means of toothed gears. He studies the interaction of the teeth between two wheels of different sizes and deduces several rules of geometry. This study is the basis for all the gears in every mechanical machine ever made, past or present. On other pages of the codex, Leonardo also drew conical gears, bent-toothed gears and ring gears.

Joints ~ Codice Madrid I, f. 62r


      Joints are used to bring two ends together mechanically. Leonardo drew many kinds of joints and suggested a number of designs, as well as wax and oil treatments to make a perfect wooden joint that would not be able slip out once it had been fitted into place. The V-shapes are used to open and close the joint.

Lantern gear~ Codex Madrid I, f. 13r


      The lantern or cage gear is the opposite of the toothed gear, with which it is always used. Two discs hold many cylindrical pegs tightly around the pivot and the pegs engage with the teeth of a gear. The empty space between the pegs catches the teeth. This type of gear is used frequently because it is easy to make and it can travel vertically whilst it is working. A ring gear is like a big lantern gear without one of the two discs often used alongside the lantern gear.

Connecting rod/crank ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 28v




The connecting rod and crank system is used to transform rotary motion into direct reciprocating motion. A crank fixed to a connecting rod at one end is applied to a wheel. The connecting rod is a system composed of two poles joined by pivots. The last pole of the connecting rod is fixed so that it can turn in only one direction and, when it is pulled and pushed by the attached crank, it moves as a result.

Wedge ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 47r


The wedge is a pyramid-shaped object that is placed in groove or between two surfaces to separate them. The energy derived from a blow applied to the head of a wedge is distributed toward the surfaces. It is used to distribute energy in different directions. The basic idea of the wedge is the inclined plane.

Axle ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 13r




Every type of gear depends on the idea of the axle and the wheel. An axle that rests on or passes through a circular hole will stay in place but will still turn. Leonardo also studied the effects of wear and tear on axles when different materials are used.

Stops (Pawl) ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 117r



To apply a brake to a gear mechanism, Leonardo often uses a lever that interlocks with teeth cut out of a wheel so that the wheel is blocked. However, by doing it this way the wheel is still free to rotate in the opposite direction; a small spring can be added to the stop lever (pawl) to return it to its position. This kind of stop is often used for blocking system and for loading leaf springs.

Flywheel ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 114r



The flywheel accumulates kinetic energy; Leonardo calls it “auxiliary motion”. At first, a large amount of energy is required to start turning the wheel or the weight attached to it, but once it is in motion the weight itself creates its own energy and it is difficult to slow down the system. The flywheel was to prove fundamental to Watt’s steam engine and to feedback systems.

Articulated Joints ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 100v



The various kinds of articulated mechanical joints are essential for building robots and automata. Codex Madrid I shows several types. The basis of these joints is the use of the pivot or axle: each pivot has a degree of free rotation. The surprise lies in the innovative notion of using the ball and socket joint, which imitates the joints in the human skeleton and allows for considerable freedom of movement.

Cams ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 6v



A cam is a device created with a wheel which has an irregular rim or with pegs that will make the desired shape. The rim of the irregular wheel pushes or moves a lever and makes it perform a movement that follows its shape. In this case, the wheel rim moves a lever, raising the hammer, which is then made to drop with a bang at each turn of the cam.

Chains ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 10r



Leonardo drew many types of chains. The chain is an assembly of metal elements connected to each other by pins. Compared to a pulley, the chain can be grasped between the teeth of a gear and is in any case much stronger. It is a mistake to think that here we have proof that Leonardo had thought of a bicycle with pedals and a chain because in fact he only drew vertical chain systems for the purpose of lifting weights or containers.

Bearings~ Codex Madrid I, f. 20v



First of all, Leonardo makes a serious study of the use of bearings to reduce wear and tear. If balls or cylindrical objects are placed between two rotating surfaces they greatlyy reduce the effects of wear and tear that would tend to slow the mechanism. Leonardo studied various shapes and materials for different uses.

Screw ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 86v



Leonardo analyses the screw in terms of mathematics and geometry, describing it as an inclined plane coiled around an axis. In these terms, the “nut” slides and moves upwards on the screw’s plane; when the nut’s progress is blocked the “plane” moves. Part of the screw can be used to engage a toothed wheel and it is then known as an “endless screw”.

Spring ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 84r



A spring is a long piece of flexible metal, coiled several times in a spiral around an axle. If the axle is rotated, the metal band behaves like an accumulator for “flexible” energy which, when released, returns the axle to its starting position. The principle characteristic of the spring is that the accumulated flexible energy is greatest at the first moment of release and very weak at the end. Spiral springs release rotary energy; springs of a different shape release energy in the opposite direction from that in which it was accumulated.

Pendulum ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 61v



The main property of a pendulum is that (in simplified terms) the time of oscillation is proportional to the length of the cord and independent of the weight and amplitude of the swing. Leonardo studied the effects of the pendulum and used it to provide power in a large number of gadgets, not just those for measuring time, but also in mills and mechanisms.

Meccanismi composti
_2xx Macchine da guerra
In Codex Madrid I, Leonardo has drawn and studied a very large number of mechanisms to produce various kind of motion, often without any specific purpose in mind, simply to explore the possibilities of mechanical science.These are composites or developments of simple machines, or different ways of obtaining the same result. There are over a hundred in just the first 12 pages.
"Unequal" motion ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 0v

    Leonardo starts the codex with this mechanism, whose purpose is to achieve non-linear, “dis-equal” motion along the axis. The motion is obtained by using the handle to turn the main wheel, which is connected to the rod. The end of the rod engages the irregular outer rim of the wheel and slides around it, following the shape. Since it is fixed at three points so that it can only move horizontally, it follows that the horizontal motion is programmed by the irregular shape of the wheel.

Rod transmission ~ Codex Madrid I, f.1r


      When he used a straight “connector” between two discs to transmit motion, Leonardo met with a transmission problem: the mechanism gets caught when the disc is turned. So he added two small rollers in the center connecting with the center of the rod and improve transmission of the movement it creates, resulting in contrary motion. In the last system, with three in-line discs, motion is transmitted in the same direction to all three discs without any problem (except for a slight pause in the straight position, which is overcome by the lack of movement).

Alternating motion using a handle ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 2r




Leonardo called the effect of these two machines “contrary friction”. The first, operated by the handle, makes use of the movement of a large toothed wheel with pegs arranged in groups on the flat surface. These groups of pegs engage alternately with, first, the small cylinder at the top and then with the one at the bottom. The two cylinders then transmit the reciprocating motion to the toothed, 3-sided curved part (lunula), which makes the notched bar slide first one way, then the other.

The second idea is simpler: the handle turns two toothed semi-circles and these engage alternately with the pegs on the two adjacent bars. The two bars are linked by a cord passed around the cylinder, which returns them to their original position, at the same time receiving reciprocating motion from them.

Spring with helical transmission ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 4r



  On the fourth page of the manuscript we find the first spring-driven motor. Leonardo writes that the spring is inside the bottom drum and that from now on we are to assume the spring is there each time it is needed. This mechanism is based on the assumption that a wound spring releases maximum energy at the beginning, which becomes gradually weaker as the spring runs down. The aim is therefore to turn this diminishing energy into a constant, linear force. The fully wound spring is connected to the central pin and pushes the drum in a clockwise direction. At the same time, the small cylinder sets off from point and is obliged to follow the line of the helical (spiral) gear. However, as the cylinder is fixed to the axis, it only moves in one direction as it travels toward the center and turns the axle with the square profile. Leonardo is aware of the geometrical and mechanical problems the cylinder will meet as it nears the center and he also suggests that the teeth at the end of the spiral should be further apart than those at the beginning. The axle then transmits motion to the large vertical wheel at the side.

Polishing motion ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 2v


      This mechanism gives rise to two composite movements. Moving the handle rotates the two rods. The upper rod, which passes through the hole, transmits anti-clockwise rotary motion over the base. At the same time, the lower rod transmits rotary motion to the second rod, which converts it into direct reciprocating motion by means of the joint and the pulley beneath the base. The result is the complex movement of the end of the rod, which could be used, for example, to polish flat mirrors.

Alternating rotary motion~ Codex Madrid I, f. 11v


      This mechanism is powered by a handle, which puts the large toothed wheel into rotary motion via a cage transmission. The large wheel shows 16 teeth arranged around only one half of the circumference. This makes the system engage first with the cylinder on the right and then the one on the left. The cylinders on the outside are linked to two discs or upper gears which thus receive alternating rotary motion. Given the number of teeth Leonardo indicates (8-16), one disc should stay still while the other completes two rotations; then the first disc will rotate while the other stays still, and so on.

Reciprocating motion with blades and split lever ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 7r




On page 7r, Leonardo sets out the rule on the number of teeth in a gear. He also portrays two machines to create reciprocating motion. The first, moved by the handle, turns a wheel with 5 pegs or teeth that move alternately above and below two blades connected to a vertical rod. The rod with the blades moves alternately, moving the horizontal rod by reciprocating motion. The second machine shows two large wheels moved by a handle. Each wheel has 9 long pegs staggered against those on the opposite wheel so that they engage and push the split lever alternately, making it move from side to side. Finally, the mechanism pushes the upper rod with reciprocating direct motion.

Pre-programmed motion along a track ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 8r


These two systems include a remarkable innovation: a wavy line is carved into a large wheel, making a track that can be “programmed” as desired. One or more pointed rods fixed to a pivot are inserted into the groove so that the pivot has to follow the track when the wheel is turned. In this way, oscillating motion is produced which can also be programmed by altering how the wheel turns. In the first example, the symmetrical twin tracks could be used to operate a pair of shears held in position by a block above the wheel. In the second, the mechanism is a blade like the ones used in clocks, but Leonardo says it is quieter.

Gravitational gyroscope ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 13v




This system of rings enables the inner hemisphere to keep its original position independently of its rotation. Two ring pivots fix the three outer rings to each other as they rotate, with a 90° displacement between each pair of rings. In this way, the inner system can move freely on three axes (X, Y, Z). The weight beneath the rotational axis keeps the inner hemisphere horizontal. The same system had always been used on ships to hold oil lamps steady in spite of the pitching caused by waves.

Self-blocking spring ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 13v



Inside the cylinder there is a spring that moves the toothed wheel below. On top, there is a metal arch with a castor that runs and rests on the upper surface of the cylinder, which has a step in it. The metal arch keeps the castor under pressure. In this way, the mechanism can only turn in one direction, because if it turned the other way it would be blocked by the castor bumping into the step.

Progressive spring-loading ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 14r



This complex gear system makes maximum use of the energy produced by a spring. The tightened spring is hidden inside the container. When the stop lever is released, the spring begins to turn the helical (spiral) gear, which makes use of the initial strong energy from the spring to rotate briefly. As the gear rotates, it automatically moves down the screw, increasing its pace as it descends. In this way, full use is made of even the spring’s slight residual energy. The helical gear turns the cylinder and thus the upper wheel. At the same time, the lower mechanism enables the spring-blocking device to move slowly and gradually to the right. The handle is used to rewind the spring by hand.

Out of phase spring-powered motor ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 16r




The tightened spring is hidden inside the container; its center of rotation is the axle. Winding is therefore decentralized and will cause the drum to move in an odd, but useful, way. In fact, a toothed spiral is placed on the drum which rises as it becomes further away from the axle. As it rotates, this spiral gear engages the upper conical cylinder which is fixed between points n and h. The cylinder is a conical cage-wheel gear. The narrow radius makes use of the initial energy from the spring, while the wide radius at the end exploits the residual energy. The cylinder is connected directly to the final wheel.

Segmented reciprocating motion ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 21r



Leonardo tried to improve the system of reciprocating motion because it had gear problems. Here he suggests making the main mechanism by using a quarter-circle (45° segment). The handle turns the wheel which has 32 teeth arranged on only half its circumference. The teeth engage alternately first segment, which makes disc rotate, completing four turns. At the next stage, wheel, which continues turning in the same direction, engages segment which, in the same way as above, makes disc rotate four times. Interestingly, Leonardo uses a bell which is shaken when segment reaches the end of its course and rings while segment is turning.

Belt transmission ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 23r



In this system, transmission of the manually driven reciprocating motion to a bell that rings is made by means of cloth or leather belts. Leonardo suggests using belt transmission to avoid the noise of the gears. In the second mechanism the reciprocating motion is supplied by the double-headed toothed “axe” which engages alternately with the cylinders. The “axe” is operated manually by the rod.

Movement along a pre-programmed course ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 24r



By turning wheel, the cogwheel moves the little disc, which can only move along the straight groove. If it is fixed or the assembly is stood on end, gravity will make it follow the same pre-programmed path back and forth. On wheel there is a groove in the shape of a double spiral. In this case, a spool is inserted in the groove. When the wheel turns, the spool is fixed so that it can only move in one direction, thus it has to follow the pre-programmed course; because it is lens-shaped it can even negotiate the points where the tracks cross. By altering the shape of the groove, it is possible to program the movement in the desired direction.

Reciprocating direct motion with belt transmission ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 30v



The system is operated by the handle which transmits motion to the wheel via an endless screw. The wheel always turns counterclockwise. Wheel R1 has 12 teeth arranged only at the front, with the result that the sequence is divided into two movements. First the wheel engages the bottom cylinder, which pushes the belt and makes it move clockwise. Then, alternately at each turn of wheel R1, the top cylinder is also engaged and this makes the belt move counterclockwise. So the belt moves forward and backward alternately, carrying along the iron rod attached to it. Leonardo suggests that the handle should not be turned too quickly, otherwise the gears jump out of place.

Spring-powered helical motor~ Codex Madrid I, f. 45r



This spring-powered motor is a development of two motors on pages 4r and 16r. The spring, which this time Leonardo states must be of tempered steel, supplies rotary movement to the whole of the central block. In this way, the cylinder, which is fixed to run only vertically between the central axle and the lateral axle, is pushed and made to rotate over the toothed “spiral staircase”. The teeth of the cage gear support and engage the teeth on the outside of the spiral, whereas point C rests on the smooth inner part of the spiral. In two and a half turns this system makes (the others only allowed one turn), the cylinder which is connected to a large wheel with a ring gear not only to rotate, but move upwards, engaging the top disc. The gear turns and slides on the grooved cylinder. To illustrate the mechanism clearly, Leonardo has also shown a section through the central motor.

Examination of the connecting rod ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 86r



Very often Leonardo examines the mechanisms and suggests various experiments with minor modifications in order to find better solutions. In this case, for example, he analyzes the efficiency of the rod-and-handle system, suggesting two types of connecting rods (which he calls “la mezana”), one short and one long. He then suggests using an extremely long rod, which has a smoother movement, instead of a short one that may even hamper it.

Flywheels with handles~ Codex Madrid I, f. 86r



To operate a flywheel, an inverse rod-and-handle system is used, and this later became the principal mechanism of the steam engine. In this case, to increase speed, Leonardo suggests doubling, tripling and quadrupling the handle assemblies. In the system with four handles set around the flywheel, he adds two rotating discs that indicate a use for the extra energy obtained. The system with four rods is mechanically similar to modern engines with 4-pistons connected to four rods that turn the axle.

Multiple pulleys ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 87 e 88r




A pulley can also be used to move gears, not just to lift weights. In addition, there are countless possible ways of combining different types of motion and the length of the rope allows the movement to be transmitted over a very long distance. The friction and noise produced by gears are also eliminated. It is possible to obtain rotation in any direction, depending on the way the rope is arranged and the inclination of the pulley. What is essential is that the rope must be turned around at least half of the pulley wheel so that the friction will engage it. These systems are the basis for the robot soldier.

“Wheels with no teeth” ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 97v




In experimenting with the use of pulleys, Leonardo also suggests methods to test his theories. In this case, there are five pairs of weights, each pair connected by a rope and pulleys. The rope for each pair (A, B, C, D and E) passes by way of the central, rotating pillar and, in descending order, each rope is given one more half-turn around the pillar than the previous one. The aim is to understand how far the friction from the pulleys can move the weights as the rope is pulled. In fact, the Codex Madrid is also full of ideas on statics and geometry explained by means of mechanical experiments.

Diamond tipped drill ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 119v




Leonardo also studied tools for making his machines. In this case, he suggests a drill with a diamond-tipped bit, which could be used to make holes in any kind of material. The power comes from a large, handle-operated flywheel whose inertia keeps the system turning. The flywheel makes the drill cylinder rotate. A large ball of lead sits on top of the drill to exert pressure on the piece being drilled. The diamond tip must be cooled with water - exactly the same process used in today’s industry.

Polishing mechanism ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 119v




This is one of the many mechanisms which can be considered a machine in itself, because we can see its use. In fact, other than the simple machines and composite mechanisms, Madrid I includes suggestions for several machines that are almost complete and ready to work. In this case, Leonardo studies a mechanism for polishing stone or mirrors. In the first system, the handle engages the axle underneath, rotating the plate which holds the mirror to be polished. At the same time, the handle moves a system of connecting rods which supplies rectilinear reciprocating motion to the polishing stone. The stone rests directly on the mirror and runs between four vertical rollers. In the second system, the handle engages the wheel directly and at the same time makes the system of three rods joined at point X move backwards and forwards.

_1 Flying machines and studies on flight
_2xx Macchine da guerra
101 ~ Aerial Screw ~ Manuscript B, f. 83v (1489)



  Leonardo describes the drawing’s function on folio 83v of Manuscript B (preserved in the Institut de France in Paris): it’s not actually a helicopter but an experiment with an aerial “screw”. To see a design by Leonardo that’s more like a helicopter with 4 propellers, we’d have to leaf back a few pages through Manuscript B to folio 80r. Leonardo proposed an experiment to verify that air is a fluid, which can be pressed and “leaned on” in order to push oneself up in flight. If this were the case, one could also make a “screw” spin, which would move itself up by pushing the air down.

102 ~ Flapping Wing Experiment ~ Manuscript B, f. 88v (1487-1489)



  An experimental machine used to verify the capacity of human force to flap with enough energy to move the wing. Another interpretation is that the machine could have been useful in verifying the behaviour of the wing itself during the powerful movements required for its use.

103 ~ Wing System ~ Manuscript B, f. 74r (1488)



  Dopo lunghissime osservazioni sul volo e sull' anatomia degli uccelli, Leonardo concepisce questa struttura ad imitazione dello scheletro di un pipistrello.

104 ~ Mechanisms for Mechanical Wings ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1051r (1480-1485)


  La vite doppia inversa consente di velocizzare le corse rettilinee necessaria per far muovere l'ala: con mezzo giro della leva la corsa viene duplicata. La campanella è il punto dove viene agganciata l'estremità inferiore dell'ala.

105 ~ Dragonfly ~ Codex Ashburnham I, f. 10v



  This was originally the first folio in Manuscript B, the work Leonardo dedicated primarily to the study of possible flying machines. It is presumed that the genius from Vinci began studies for these machines inspired by nature, observing insects and flying creatures, in this case a dragonfly.

106 ~ Mechanical wings ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 844r



  This is a study of mechanical structures for imitating the movement of bird’s wings. It seems to be Leonardo’s intention to experiment with these devices by using a small-scale model covered in feathers. When the lower shaft is set in motion the wing is moved up and down and the pulley simultaneously pulls the struts that bend the tips of the wings.

107 ~ Flying machine ~ Manuscript B, f. 74v - 75r





Una delle versioni di macchina volante progettata da Leonardo.
La posizione del pilota era supina e i meccanismi venivano azionati con due pedali.

108 ~ Articulated wing system ~ Manuscript B, f. 74v - 75r




Una delle diverse versioni di macchina volante progettata da Leonardo.
Questo aliante poteva muovere le ali in su ed in giù tramite il movimento alternato di due pedali.

109 ~ Glider ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 64r




Il progetto dell'aliante è tra i più originali tra quelli sul volo. Il suo funzionamento è molto simile a quello di un moderno aquilone: la struttura planante in tela è manovrabile tramite due coppie di corde che permettono di spostarla a destra/sinistra e su/giù in modo da direzionare il mezzo.

110 ~ Flying machine ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 70r




In the folio 70r we find a project for a flying machine. The designs at the top represent a side view of the wing curve. In the center, a very faint drawing shows the overall front view with a person outlined in the middle. Below, there is a detailed design of the left wing and to its side are specific details for its attachment to the central structure.

111 ~ Ornithopter ~ Manuscript B, f. 80r





112 ~ Wire-controlled bird ~ Codex of Flight, f. 15v




Leonardo has designed a special instrument for measuring the center of gravity and the position of equilibrium of a model bird.

113 ~ Mechanical Dragonfly ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1051v



Does the design on folio 1051v of the Codex Atlanticus hide the first aeronautical engine in history? Leonardo drew a structure5 containing a device with a spring. This is not a preliminary design but a very concrete idea that he studied purposefully to use in flight, evidenced by the writing bird and cause of movement flanking the drawings. The mechanism was researched thoroughly, since the four wings placed in the upper part would modify their angle as they flap up and down.

114 ~ Great Kite ~ Codex on Flight



The machine’s reconstruction is to be considered faithful to Leonardo’s idea. Despite the absence of the machine drawn in its entirety, there is little space for free interpretation and the textual indications supply excellent guidelines; likewise for fundamental constructive matters, such as the dimensions, the materials and the positioning of the center of gravity. The existence of this design could never be put into question, though it was obviously subject to modification. Indeed, in the course of future studies, some mechanisms may be perfected or their functioning reconsidered.

_2 War Machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
201 ~ Multi-cannon gunship ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1ar (1503-1505)


      The design on the upper page is a multi-cannon gunship (viewed from above) with 16 barrels and a complex central mechanism, probably for moving and turning the “armored gunship” on the water. The other lower design marks suggest the possible project of a multi-cannon station on a mobile tower.

202 ~ Mortar for fragmentation bombs ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 33r (1504)



  The drawing shows the effects of two different kinds of charge: the mortar at the front fires bombs that - on impact or when close to the target - explode into a cloud of metal shrapnel, while the other mortar is loaded with stones or small-caliber iron balls which are fired at the enemy like grape-shot.

203 ~ Assault Bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1074r (1500)



  Tthere are two versions of a military assault bridge in the manuscript. Designed to be dragged or pushed across to the opposite bank of a river, the shield at the front and the wooden roof give protection to the soldiers. In the second version, the prow can be opened from inside and the bridge is steered by a helm at the back.

204 ~ Machine Gun ~ Manuscript B, f. 82v (1503,1505)


  Questa particolare imbarcazione che sembra dotata di una serie di bombarde a ripetizione, è in realtà un'ipotesi, una sorta di esperimento mentale per neutralizzare gli effetti del contraccolpo. Diversamente a quanto lascia credere il disegno, Leonardo annota che lo sparo deve avvenire simultaneamente in due bombarde contrapposte.

205 ~ Armored Car ~ London, British Museum, single folio (1487)



  The armored car in the drawing is powered by all four wheels using a system of levers. It can fire in all directions.

206 ~ Scythed Chariots ~ Turin, Biblioteca Reale, f. 15583r (1485)



  The scythed chariot was a lethal weapon used in filed combat. Leonardo's version has rotating horizontal blades operated by an axle-driven transmission system.

207 ~ Cannon Barrel ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 154br (1478-1485)


  These two pages show various ways of lifting a cannon from the ground. On left of the bottom page the cannon barrel is raised step by step to a cart using six vertical and two horizontal beams. At the center the cannon barrel is transported on a 4 wheel cart alternatively using lever and wedge.

208 ~ Spingarde ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 32r (1482)


      Here are two ideas for a spingarde. The first is mounted on a horse tripod and has an adjustment for range-elevation using pegs. The second has wheels and a cover to protect the artilleryman. There are also some sketches of shells and a cart with a container for the explosive charge. There is an interesting dart with retractable lateral wings. Also noted are a number of formulae for making gunpowder.

209 ~ Giant Crossbow ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 149r (1500)


209_ca149r _02
  On the top sheet there are various designs for cutting weapons, crossbows and cannons. The crossbows are wound up by screws. At top left, there is a seven-bladed wheel and a quick-loading system for cannons. At top right, there is a mortar mounted on a boat with a shield. The second sheet shows a giant crossbow with a width of 42 arms’ lengths (82 ft - 25 m). There are also two different methods shown for releasing the cord in traction, using a hammer or a lever.

210 ~ Steam Cannon ~ Manuscript B, f. 33v (1488)

007_ca33v_ 01


  Questo cannone che fu realmente costruito duecento anni dopo che Leonardo ne aveva fermata l'idea sulla carta (durante la guerra di secessione americana), funziona utilizzando come propulsione l'espansione del vapore. Quando la culatta del cannone è incandescente, attraverso una valvola, vi si immette dell'acqua che, trasformandosi immediatamente in vapore, si espande generando la forza necessaria al lancio del proiettile.

211 ~ Catapult ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 140abr (1485-1490)


  There are many plans for catapults. This particular design uses a double leaf spring to produce an enormous amount of energy for propelling stone projectiles or incendiary materials, over great distances. The loading of the two large leaf springs was accomplished using a hand crank on the side of the catapult.

212 ~ Multi-barrelled Machine Gun ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 157r (1482)



  This machine gun had considerable firepower. Once the cannons were loaded and ready to be fired, a broad range of fire was ensured. Because the gun carriage was easily moveable, it could be aimed at different objectives as necessary. The altitude of the cannon fire could be adjusted using a hand crank on the rear of the carriage.

213 ~ Fortress ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 117r (1507-1510)



  This is a design for a “modern” fortress. To avoid the walls from becoming “head-on” targets for cannon fire Leonardo suggests making them rounded, with no corners. The lower walls do not have narrow slits and or any direct connection with the outside. The foundations must be robust to prevent the enemy digging tunnels or placing mines. In the center of the sketch, in the shaded area there is a small bridge and the word “sotterranei” (vaults).

214 ~ Defense for Castle Walls ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 139r (1482-1510)



  This drawing, made long before the sketch in folio 133, shows defense systems for Medieval castles built with straight walls. Traction devices inside the castle are worked by ropes or handles that lever up a huge “rake” that pushes a horizontal beam out from the walls. Assailants scaling the walls with long ladders are pushed back away from the wall. At the bottom of the page there are details of how the device is anchored to the walls.

215 ~ Ship’s Cannon with Protective Shield ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 172r (1487-1489)





  This sheet, which has a red background, shows a number of ideas for a ship with a cannon and moveable protective shield. At the top, there are a number of winches and naval supports. At the bottom, there are two drawings of the ship. There is a detailed study of the metal point of the prow, especially in regard to the system for anchoring and opening the shields. The two open and closed shields have different shapes because of the difficulty of finding the correct geometrical format. The shields are opened and closed by means of a winch set on the prow.

216 ~ Cart with foure drive wheels ~ Biblioteca Reale, f. 1030 (1485)


      Progetto del Piano per la movimentazione del carroarmato a trazione umana dotato di ruote chiodate per una migliore presa sul terreno.

217 ~ Spingarde - field artillery gun ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 32r



  Here are two ideas for a spingarde. The first is mounted on a horse tripod and has an adjustment for range-elevation using pegs. The second has wheels and a cover to protect the artilleryman. There are also some sketches of shells and a cart with a container for the explosive charge. There is an interesting dart with retractable lateral wings. Also noted are a number of formulae for making gunpowder.

218 ~ Carro da guerra con pallo di piombo ~ Windsor, Royal Library, f. 12653r (1485)


      Variante del carro falciate, arma da combattimento campestre di tradizione antica. Questo modello di Leonardo monta dei micidiali palli di piombo.

219 ~ Carro da guerra con mazze ~ Windsor, Royal Library, f. 12653r (1485)


      Variante del carro falciante, arma da combattimento campestre di tradizione antica. Questo modello di Leonardo monta delle micidiali mazze.

220 ~ Accendi cannone ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 158r


      Meccanismo per aprire il cartoccio e, nello stesso tempo, dar fuoco alla carica. La miccia è stretta dalle ganasce del "serpente" e viene accesa quando si tira il grilletto.

221 ~ Weapons and armours ~ Manuscript B




222 ~ Cannon-holder ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 3r


      The design for this cannon-holder is simple yet functional. The entire structure is made of just the wheels and the two axles of a cart that are connected to each other by the cannon itself, which is inserted into two large metal rings and secured by a screw system moved by a winch for each of the axles. Once it reaches its destination, the cart is blocked with a stop for each of the wheels, also in metal, thus blocking the whole structure during the explosion of a shot. The simplicity of the structure would allow for easy replacement of a cannon directly on the field. In fact, instead of having to lift the cannon to load and transport it, it could be comfortably joined first to one axle of the cart and then to the other .

223 ~ Strange crossbow ~ Manoscritto B, f. 46v



224 ~ Ballista ~ Manoscritto B, f. 7r



225 ~ Fire arrow ~ Manoscritto B, f. 50v



226 ~ Double castle ~ Manoscritto B, f. 12r



227 ~ Fire ball ~ Manoscritto B, f. 4r



228 ~ Cannons test ~ Manoscritto B, f. 32r


_3 Machines for use with and on water
_2xx Macchine da guerra
301 ~ Double-deck bridge ~ Manuscript B, f. 23r



  Questa soluzione ci sorprende per la sua modernità e richiama alla memoria i ponti di alcune metropoli di oggi. Leonardo non ci dice la sua destinazione, ma il disegno parla chiaramente e fa pensare ad un sistema per organizzare la circolazione nei due sensi di marcia senza che si creino intralci al traffico dovuti al doppio senso. Molto probabilmente Leonardo ha qui in mente la sua città ideale dove gli spazi destinati al lavoro e quelli destinati al tempo libero sono realizzati su due livelli separati.

302 ~ Pontoon Bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 857r



  A wooden walkway is set on six boats or barrels. A shaft and winch pull the bridge to turn and open it. The cut-out inlet in the river bank permits the whole bridge to be rotated into the river bank, a very original idea. However, there is not enough space for the bridge to be correctly rotated on the pivot. The winch is only used to close the bridge, it opens by using the flow of the current that moves the boats downstream.

303 ~ Drawing Machine ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 10r (1500)



  Study of a machine powered by an hydraulic engine to manufacture iron rods for firearm production. A mechanical system of screws and wheels generate traction and compression that are synchronized to produce a profile with a narrowing cross-section. It is interesting to note Leonardo’s explanations how to increase the drawing power by adding more gears.

304 ~ Pump with Bellows ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 5r (1500)


  This folio has a few designs. In the center there is a large hydraulic pump with valves powered by a large bellows. The bellows is connected to a twin screw which is driven by a flexible wooden shaft drawn by a pulley. Once primed, the complex mechanism could continuously pump water. On the lower right side of the page there is a man drawing an armillary sphere who is leaning on an instrument used for reproducing perspectives of 3D models on a flat surface. By looking through a small hole he is able to copy what he sees on a transparent sheet.

305 ~ Water-powered Saw ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1078r (1500)




  L'abbinamento del motore idraulico con il dispositivo biella manovella permise di automatizzare il movimento delle macchine operatrici. Il disegno più antico di sega idraulica si trova nel taccuino dell'architetto ingegnere medievale Villard de Honnecourt (1270). Il modello di Leonardo, derivato da Francesco di Giorgio, è dotato di un particolare dispositivo di fermo che mantiene il pezzo di legno in lavorazione aderente alla lama durante il taglio.

306 ~ Multiple Waterwheel Pumps ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 7v (1500)



  Il peso dei contenitori riempiti dall'acqua pompata dal pozzo fa ruotare le camme che generano il movimento alternato dei pistoni della pompa. Questa macchina dovrebbe muoversi di moto perpetuo. Molti ingegneri rinascimentali si impegnarono nella realizzazione di questo progetto che era destinato a rimanere un sogno tecnologico. Sarà Leonardo che dopo attenti studi e non pochi esperimenti ne dimostrerà l'impossibilità CA 922v).

307 ~ Mechanical and perpetual motion pumps ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1069r (1500)


  There are six machines for pumping water. Upper right, there's a tank at the top oof the tower, fed by a pair of Archimedes'screws turned by a low impact waterwheel.

308 ~ Chain Pump ~ Manuscript B, f. 54v (1500)



  Per mezzo di una ruota calcatoria si aziona la catena di sfere le quali essendo calibrate sul diametro della conduttura sollevano l'acqua fino alla superficie.

309 ~ Canal Bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 126v (1500)


  This is an essential structural system for the construction of artificial navigable canals between waterways of different levels, cascades or crossing a river.

310 ~ Swing Bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 855r (1487-1489)


  The swing bridge was probably also one of the projects mentioned in Leonardo's letter of self-reccomendation to Ludovico the Moor.

311 ~ Trestle Bridge ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 55r




This is a military bridge to be build with available materials at the site and is easy to assemble.

312 ~ Contatore per Acqua ~ Manuscript G, f. 93v




Sistema per calcolare l'acqua consumata o per calcolare l'acqua venduta.

313 ~ Submarine~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 811r




Progetto di una barca sommergibile per il trasporto di persone.

314 ~ Paddleboat ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1063 r (1487-1489)


  Se una ruota a pale sfruttando l'energia dell'acqua corrente permetteva di mettere in movimento gli alberi motori delle macchine operatrici, era possibile anche il contrario: mettendo in movimento manualmente l'albero a gomito era possibile usare le pale della ruota come una serie di remi che in successione colpivano l'acqua facendo avanzare la barca. Anche questa speciale imbarcazione è un invenzione medievale e Leonardo ce ne offre una versione aggiornata che prevede il montaggio di due volani sull' asse delle manovelle di azionamento.

315 ~Golden Horn Bridge ~ Manuscript L, f. 66r




This project is taken from a sketch accompanied by some notes on quantities that appear on a page of a small travel diary signed with the letter L.

316 ~ Svuotacanale ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 156r



Dispositivo per lo svuotamento di canali artificiali

317 ~ Dredger ~ Manuscript E, f. 75v




Una macchina studiata per eliminare i depositi di fango che in inverno si accumulano nei porti e sul letto dei fiumi,ostacolando la navigazione.
Costituita da due barche parallele sulla quale sono montati quattro bracci regolabili in altezza.
La draga disegnata da Leonardo Propone una struttura simile al "cavafango" di Francesco di Giorgio, differenziandosi però da essa per il sistema di azionamento, una manovella montata sull'asse della ruota avvolge una corda che ancorata sulla sponda permette l'avanzamento della lavorazione.

318 ~ Paddleboat ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 945 r




In the center of the sheet is the paddle boat’s “motor”. The external paddles are only outlined. Two pedals set the mechanism in motion that are linked to a belt creating a reciprocating motion (see folio 30v). The mechanism transforms the reciprocating motion into a continuous rotary motion for the paddles. At top right, the device is shown with a large flywheel.

319 ~ Trestles and roped joints ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 58v



In these sheets, five in all of which four are joined, there are many drawings of trestles. Leonardo is studying ways in which to keep them tightly in place, perhaps for building bridges or other structures. He suggests avoiding nails, which would “give”in time and tries to find an effective way of using ropes and special knots to maintain a strong, stable and self-tightening hold.

320 ~ Saber ~ Manuscript B, f. 9v




321 ~ Buoys ~ Manuscript B, f. 61v




322 ~ Boat Shield~ Manuscript B, f. 88r




323 ~ Saddle ~ Manuscript B, f. 10v




324 ~ Swimmer ~ Manuscript B, f. 81v




_4 Industrial and building machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
401 ~ Reciprocating motion machine ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 30v



  This project studies the transformation of reciprocating motion into continuous motion. In this machine power is produced to lift a heavy body from the ground. By moving a lever back and forth, the operator activates the mechanism that allows the line to wind around the centre-rotating shaft.

402 ~ Drill ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1089v



      The fragment shows a column drill. On the right-hand page, the front of the workbench has a drill worked by a pulley. At the back, a mechanism to hold the work-piece to be drilled in place is operated by two pairs of quadruple chucks. The eight anchoring devices are operated in unison by the levers on the central cylinder. The front turning handle is used to advance the block to be drilled.

403 ~ File Cutter ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 24v



403_ca24r_ 03
  This machine automatically cut files. Due to its weight and thus the force of gravity, a weight suspended from a line made it move. By activating various machanisms, the file advanced and at the same time was struck by an attached hammer. With every blow by the iron hammer, a cut was made in the metal file.

404 ~ Digger ~ Manuscript L, f. 76v



  Un dispositivo studiato per la produzione di canali.

405 ~ Canal excavating crane ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 3r e 4r (1503 - 1504)






405_ca4r _06

  Excavation is carried out by 26 workmen on two levels. The large machine has two crane booms mounted one above the other on the same vertical axis. The machine is mounted on wood tracks in the canal, and when pulled by a screw mechanism slides forward. The two crane booms function using the same rope, acting on the principle of counter-balance : the laborers work in teams so that when a bucket in the canal is full, another has already been emptied onto the embankment. The men on the embankment climb into the empty bucket which moves downward and by means of the counter-weight the rope in turn lifts the other filled bucket.

406 ~ Device for Grinding Concave Mirrors ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 87r



  By activating a single hand crank, the rotating motion was transferred simultaneously onto two stone disks positioned on two different axes. The respective rotatory motion of the disks hollowed and smoothed out the mirror placed on the horizontal disk.

407 ~ Gru girevole ~ Codex Atlanticus


      Il disegno potrebbe non essere di Leonardo e mostra il progetto di una gru in grado di ruotare attorno ad un perno. La macchina ricalca le gru diffuse nel periodo rinascimentale, del tipo utilizzate anche dal Brunelleschi.

408 ~ Gru rotante a base circolare ~ Codex Atlanticus


      Gru elevatrice in grado di ruotare attorno ad una base di forma circolare. Il disegno potrebbe non essere di Leonardo ed è forse la copia della macchina utilizzata dal Brunelleschi per montare la palla dorata sul Duomo di Firenze.

409 ~ Test per la resistenza dei fili ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 222r


      Macchina per testare la resistenza dei fili. Il filo da testare viene appeso al braccio della macchina e viene fissato alla sua estremità un secchio; questo viene riempito gradualmente con sabbia o altro materiale proveniente dalla cassa tramite un foro. La crescente tensione dovuta al peso spezzerà ad un certo punto il filo, la cui resistenza è quindi rappresentata dal peso del secchio nel momento della rottura.

410 ~ Scala ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 30v


      Nel foglio 30v, dedicato al moto alternato, si trova un piccolo disegno che rappresenta delle scale a pioli modulari con sistema di aggancio a incastro per variare le altezze.

411 ~ Cuscinetti a sfera ~ Codex Madrid, f. 101v


    Progetto di cuscinetti a sfera di Leonardo. I cuscinetti sono di varie fogge per sostenere un'asse verticale. Leonardo introdusse ciò che oggi si chiama la spinta sostenuta: varie tipologie di forme portanti sostengono il peso di un albero verticale.

412 ~ Cuscinetto a tre sfere ~ Codex Madrid, f. 101v



Leonardo introdusse quello che oggigiorno si chiama il cuscinetto di spinta. Nel Codice di Madrid si introduce l'impiego di cuscinetti a sfere e a rulli, e vi è uno schizzo ove viene presentato un cuscinetto paragonabile ai moderni cuscinetti di spinta a sfere.
Il perno conico impaccato in un gruppo compatto di tre cuscinetti a sfere è il meccanismo reinventato negli Anni '20 per la strumentazione degli aerei per il volo cieco.

413 ~ Cuscinetto a coni ~ Codex Madrid, f. 101v



Nel Codice di Madrid, il testo estremamente interessante di Leonardo dimostra la sua conoscenza dei problemi di attrito nei cuscinetti a rulli.
Leonardo realizza uno studio dei cuscinetti a rullo ed è favorevole alla soluzione che incorpora tre rulli conici che sostengono un perno munito di testa conica della stessa misura e forma dei rulli.

414 ~ Cuscinetto cilindrico verticale ~ Codex Madrid, f. 101v



Al tempo di Leonardo venivano largamente impiegate per il sollevamento di carichi pesanti le binde, azionate girando una vite. La loro utilità era però limitata perchè, sotto una forte pressione, si sviluppava un grande attrito fra il dado girante e il disco su cui esso pesava.
Tra gli studi di Leonardo per ridurre l'attrito fra il dado girante e la placca della binda, vi è anche la tipologia del cuscinetto cilindrico verticale .

415 ~ Cuscinetto cilindrico orizzontale ~ Codex Madrid, f. 101v


      Nei suoi studi, Leonardo giunse a formulare parecchi principi generali sull'attrito e inventò veri e propri cuscinetti a sfere e a rulli, anticipando sin nei particolari quelle componenti così essenziali ai meccanismi moderni, dai pattini a rotelle alle automobili. Una di queste è il cuscinetto cilindrico orizzontale.

416 ~ Cambio velocità ~ Codex Madrid, f. 9r



417 ~ Weighted triple-strand rope-making machine ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 13r



  Same elegant attention to detail folio 12, the sketch is a rope-making machine with 3 strands, twisting is done by a single crank. The weight on the right maintains the tension of the bobbin and the ropes during the twisting process. The care with which the design has been drawn suggests that it was done for a presentation.

418 ~ Cart for carrying heavy objects ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 114r


      The design on the folio 114r of the Codex Atlanticus is a cart for carrying heavy objects with four independent wheels.

419 ~ Carro for gigantic cannon ~ Manuscript B , f. 77r .


      Folio 77r of Manuscipt B has a few ideas for carts to carry and lift extremely heavy objects, such as a gigantic cannon. Leonardo's system is a mobile pyramid-shaped winch.

420 ~ Study of steering and axles for carts ~ Madrid I, f. 93v.


      Nel foglio 93v del Madrid I Leonardo studia e propone diverse soluzioni per lo sterzo anteriore dei carri.

421 ~ Tip-up truck ~ Madrid I, f. 34v.


      Carro per il trasporto di cannoni, ribaltabile su un fianco per issare più facilmetne il carico.

422 ~ Cart with two drive wheels ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 868r.


      The design on the folio 868r of the Codex Atlanticus is a cart for carrying heavy objects with two independent wheels.

423 ~ Crane ~ Manuscript B, f. 49r.



424 ~ Connecting-rod pump ~ Manuscript B, f. 53v.


_5 Theatrical machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
501 ~ Self-propelling cart ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 812r (1478-1480)




This famous drawing of the self-propelling cart is, in fact, a complex model for an automaton, a mechanism to provide theatrical effects. The drawing at the top is an unfinished first draft. In the center is the view from above. The vehicle can be programmed and is wound up by the mainsprings; the “crossbows” are auxiliary systems and the small lower wheels represent the escapement mechanism. The details surrounding the central drawing are studies of braking systems and fixtures for the auxiliary systems.

On-line self-propelling cart

Virtual exibit

502 ~ Theatrical Staging fo Orpheus ~ Codex Arundel, f. 231v (1507)




Leonardo designed many theatrical devices. In this project ingenious stage sets appeared during the theatrical scenes. This particular set was used in staging Orpheus.

503 ~ Room of mirrors ~ Manuscript B, f. 28r


      Si tratta di un dispositivo che permetteva di studiare i segreti della riflessione multipla

504 ~ Mechanical Lion ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 90v and 91r




  However, what we now consider as the quintessential robot, a lion able to walk unaided and whose chest opens up, is not the work of Leonardo. Not one of his drawings or notes has been found makes any reference to it. All the reports are by later commentators. Vasari wrote:
“ In due course, the King of France came to Milan and when Leonardo was asked to make something fantastic he built a lion that could walk a few steps, then opened its chest, which was filled with lilies”.
Describing the banquet on 5 October 1600 for the wedding of Maria de’ Medici and Henry IV, King of France, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger referred to the appearance of a lion which:
“ began to move, and rising in two movements, opened its chest, which was seen to be full of lilies”.
Buonarroti pointed out that this was:
“ a similar idea to the one Leonardo da Vinci used in Lyons on behalf of the Florentine nation when King Francis came to visit”.
In 1584 Giovan Paolo Lomazzo describes what he learned from Francesco Melzi, Leonardo’s favorite pupil who inherited all his manuscripts:
“ once in front of Francis I, King of France, he made a wonderfully and cleverly made lion walk from his place in the room; it then stopped and opened its chest which was filled with lilies and various other flowers”.

505 ~ Robot-Soldier ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 579r , 1077r, 1021r, 1021v




  Among the vast number of projects of Leonardo, there is a "robot-soldier" that has entered into the common imagination. Studies of the subjects mention that manuscripts relating to Leonardo's idea for the robot are in the Codex Atlanticus, specifically folio 579r.
_6 Musical machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
601 ~ Mechanical drum ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 837r (1503-1505)



  The drawing is a cart equipped with a mechanical drum. When pulled or set in motion by a handle, the gears turn the two lateral drums which are fitted with pegs (cams). These pegs, which can be placed in various positions, move ten sticks (five on each side) that beat the large drum on the back. Changing the position of the pegs alters the rhythm of the music.

602 ~ Skull-shaped Lyre ~ Codex Asburnham I


  A design for a lyre that was most probably meant for use on stage rather than an instrument to be actually played. The idea of using animal parts as sound boxes in musical instruments has prehistoric origins.

603 ~ Harpsichord-Viola ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 93r (1478-1482)



  This comprehensive folio depicts the apparatus for a portable musical instrument. In the center of the bottom of the page, we see a view showing the case. The instrument is worn around the waist and played with both hands on a keyboard, in the same way as a piano. Inside, a complex system of cams and pulleys that raise and lower the strings to and from a moving horsehair bow, producing a sound similar to that of a viola. The internal bow moves continuously, thanks to a system of pulleys and a flywheel, which the player operates with his legs. This piano viola has only recently been discovered.

604 ~ Trumpet with pair of bellows~ Codex Madrid II , f. 76r


  The secret of this instrument is the pair of bellows. The movement of the musician's elbow works the bellows, which then produce a continuous sound.
_7 Miscellaneous machines
_2xx Macchine da guerra
701 ~ Printing press ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 995r (1478-1482)



  The press is worked by the lever on the right which, when turned, pushes down on the press by means of a large screw. At the same time, the large cogwheel at the top turns a pulley, which pulls the plate holding the paper under the press. In a single movement, the press loads the sheet of paper and prints the page.

702 ~ Odometer ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1r (circa1504)



  Odometers are small carts with gears that can measure distances by way of a mechanism that drops pebbles or markers at measured intervals. The sum of these markers represent the distance covered. Audible clicks also provide information.

703 ~ Compasses ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 696r (1514-1515)




  The top part of the sheet shows over 30 drawings of compasses and opening mechanisms. The compass at the center, which is complete, opens by means of a pivotless ring and a spring on each of the pointers. Below, there are numerous architectural designs, half-moons and mechanical joints.

704 ~ Il cavallo in bronzo degli Sforza ~ Codex Madrid a, f. 157r - Codex Atlanticus, f. 147r (1500)




  Modello del cavallo per la realizzazione del monumento equestre di Francesco Sforza. Sembra che nel 1493 il modello fosse già pronto ma la fusione in bronzo non fu mai realizzata.

705 ~ Strumenti per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza (Anima strutturale interna) ~ Codex Madrid, f. 157v (1500)




  Si tratta dell'anima strutturale interna del cavallo degli Sforza.

706 ~ Strumenti per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza (Meccanismo di colata) ~ Codex Madrid, f. 149r (1500)




  Si tratta del meccanismo di colata del bronzo per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza.

707 ~ Strumenti per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza (Forno) ~ Codex Madrid f. 154r (1500)




  Si tratta del forno per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza.

708 ~ Strumenti per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza (Macchina Piegacavallo) ~ Codex Madrid, f. 154r (1500)




  Si tratta di un particolare dispositivo meccanico che consente la piegatura del cavallo.

709 ~ Strumenti per la realizzazione del cavallo degli Sforza (Sollevatore) ~ Codex Madrid, f. 157r (1500)



  Si tratta di un particolare dispositivo meccanico che funziona da sollevatore.

710 ~ Lampadario ad olio ~


      Lampadario da muro. Quattro contenitori ad olio erano appesi tramite catene al soffitto.

711 ~ Valvola ~ Codex Madrid


      L'immagine mostra un tubo in sezione con applicato il meccanismo pensato da Leonardo. Se l'acqua si muove dal basso verso l'alto, la valvola si sposta nella stessa direzione, permettendo il passagio di liquido; in caso contrario si sposterà verso il basso in modo tale che il cono ostruisca il tubo.

712 ~ Elevatore trasportabile articolato ~


      Carrello con piano regolabile grazie ad un martinetto a vite che permette l'apertura o la chiusura a forbice dei montanti verticali.

713 ~ Automatic roasting spit ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 21 (1500).


      Leonardo designed two different models of spits. The first one is a spits worked by a complex mechanical drive system of gears operated by an engine powered by weights. The curious braking system consists of a winch and four feathers. The second spit is turned as a current of hot air rises up through the chimney turning a fan that is linked to a transmission system.

714 ~ Instrument for reproducing perspective and armillary sphere ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 5r


    This folio has a few designs. In the center there is a large hydraulic pump with valves powered by a large bellows. The bellows is connected to a twin screw which is driven by a flexible wooden shaft drawn by a pulley. Once primed, the complex mechanism could continuously pump water. On the lower right side of the page there is a man drawing an armillary sphere who is leaning on an instrument used for reproducing perspectives of 3D models on a flat surface. By looking through a small hole he is able to copy what he sees on a transparent sheet.

715 ~ Drill ~ Codex Madrid I, f. 25v (1500).


      Sistema di trapanazione idraulico per realizzare tubazioni modulari. Curioso è il sistema a contrappeso pensato per regolare in maniera automatica la discesa del modulo di legno: variando il contrappeso varia la pressione del tronco sopra la trivella.

716 ~ Reconstruction of Vinci Castle ~


      Tipico castello medioevale sito in Vinci.

717 ~ Savonarola Chair ~


      Modello di sedia detta "Savonarola". Realizzato sui rilievi dei modelli che si trovano al Castello Sforzesco di Milano.

718 ~ Settle ~


      Cassapanca realizzata sui rilievi dei modelli che si trovano al Castello Sforzesco di Milano.

719 ~ Brazier ~


      Braciere realizzato sui rilievi dei modelli che si trovano al Castello Sforzesco di Milano.

720 ~ Castle ~



721 ~ Distiller ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1114r




722 ~ Intercom ~ Manuscript B, f. 23r



723 ~ Studies of cathedrals with central plan ~ Manuscript B




724 ~ Wooden Model ~ Codex on Flight , inside backcover


      Most of the page is taken up by the drawing of a villa; it’s probably that of Charles d’Amboise, the governor of Milan (for the king of France), to be built outside the city beyond today’s Porta Venezia. The drawing is axonometric, as is a separate detail of windows and columns. There is also a plan of the first floor and details of the plan.

725 ~ Climbing ~ Manuscript B , 59v



726 ~ Gazebo ~ Manuscript B , 28v



727 ~ Crossed staircase ~ Manuscript B , 68v



728 ~ Stables ~ Manuscript B , 39r


_8 Geometrical studies
_2xx Macchine da guerra
801 ~ Mazzocchio ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 710r


  This design, which Leonardo himself calls “Mazzocchio”, comprises 32 sections with an octagonal base. The axonometric projection is extremely complex, because every plane consists of a hollow frame that reveals the underlying structure. This is not just an exercise on paper: alongside, Leonardo suggests ways of building versions of the figure in card and wax, and one in lead. Leonardo drawsThe little the section of one of the 512 component parts. The total of pieces is 2048.
_2xx Macchine da guerra
802 ~ Icosahedron ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 518r



  The three-dimensional figure is an icosahedron. Probably, this is a drawing exercise prior to the final work for Luca Pacioli’s book, De divina proportione.
_2xx Macchine da guerra
803 ~ Ellipsograph ~ Codex Atlanticus, f. 1093r



_2xx Macchine da guerra
804 ~ Three-dimensional solid ~ Codex Atlanticus, f.709r





  This axonometric projection is a three-dimensional composition formed of three intersecting squares.
Machines designed by other Renaissance engineers
_Baldassarre Peruzzi
_2xx Macchine da guerra
BP01 ~ Dighe ~



  Baldassarre Peruzzi dedicò diverso tempo alla progettazione di dighe, qua vediamo rappresentate rispettivamente due tipologie: la diga "Primo Modo" e diga "Quinto modo" .
_Francesco Di Giorgio
_2xx Macchine da guerra
FDG01 ~ barca "Battipalo" ~ Manoscritto 197.b.21 f.48v.




Questa macchina è essenzialmente una piattaforma costruita sopra due barconi , sulla quale è montato il motore per l'azionamento e l'incastellatura verticale dove scorre il battipalo.
Il battipalo gallegiante serve per piantare grossi pali sul fondo dei fiumi e dei laghi, trovando un impiego in operazioni come il consolidamento degli argini, la costruzione degli sbarramenti fluviali e dei ponti.

FDG02 ~ La barca cavafango ~ Manoscritto Saluzziano 148, f.64v.



  Una macchina studiata per eliminare i depositi di fango che in inverno si accumulano nei porti e sul letto dei fiumi,ostacolando la navigazione.
Costituita da due barche parallele sulla quale sono montati quattro bracci regolabili in altezza.
_Mariano di Jacopo, detto "il Taccola"
_2xx Macchine da guerra
MDJ01 ~ La "Barca Biscia" ~



  Progetto di un sistema di barche galleggianti a giunti snodati.

MDJ02 ~ Cassone per fondare in acqua ~ Manoscritto Lat. 7239 f. 13r.



  Attrezzatura semplice ed efficace con la quale si potevano realizzare le fondamenta in acqua dei ponti e delle dighe.
Questa macchina è una piattaforma galleggiante con un'apertura centrale attraverso la quale si cala in acqua un cassone di legno impermeabilizzato che, successivamente, viene riempito di pietre.

MDJ03 ~ barca "Cavapalo" ~ Manoscritto Palatino 766 f. 35r.



  Si tratta di un semplice dispositivo a leva montato su una barca che un uomo o più uomini possono azionare facendo da contrappeso a una pinza autobloccante che, quando è messa in trazione, si chiude sul palo estraendolo, ad esempio, dal fondo di un lago.

_Vannoccio Biringuccio
_2xx Macchine da guerra
VB01 ~ Alesatrice ~



  Macchina idraulica con la funzione di lavorare e rendere liscio l'intero delle canne di armi da fuoco.
_Altre applicazioni di ingegneria rinascimentale.
_2xx Macchine da guerra
Va01 ~ Ruota ad impatto ~



  Le ruote verticali sono di tre tipi e si differenziano secondo il modo in cui sono alimentate: ruote a impatto inferiore, a impatto laterale, a impatto superiore.
Lo sviluppo di questo tipo di ruote idrauliche in età moderna ha portato alla costruzione delle turbine idrauliche verticali che vengono utilizzate quando sono disponibili alti dislivelli.

Va02 ~ Tastatore ~


  Un sistema di rilevazione per figure complesse che veniva utilizzato già nell'antichità , può essere considerato come precursore dei moderni sistemi di rilievo ottici.
_Ricomposizione virtuale delle pagine del Codice Atlantico
_2xx Macchine da guerra


Sono queste immagini inedite, ricostruzioni composte di più fogli del Codice Atlantico e delle loro parti mancanti. Si tratta del restauro virtuale del manoscritto deteriorato dal tempo attraverso una sua ripulitura digitale dalla polvere e da varie macchie provocate dal tempo.

Codice Atlantico, foglio 132 recto unito al foglio 133 recto.

Codice Atlantico, foglio 132 verso unito al foglio 133 verso.



Codice Atlantico, foglio 266 recto unito al suo frammento nella Collezione di Windsor.

Codice Atlantico, foglio 266 verso unito al suo frammento nella Collezione di Windsor.



Codice Atlantico, foglio 44 verso unito al suo frammento tratto da una Collezione Privata.

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