Officials Report Mold in a Leonardo Collection

The extent of damage to the Codex — an assemblage of 1,119 pages of drawings and writings dating from 1478 to 1519 on topics ranging from flying machines to weapons, mathematics to botany — is not yet known, but the mold is not spreading, they said.

But officials appealed for aid in restoring and conserving the Codex, saying it would be highly expensive and that there were no public funds for the project.

Msgr. Marco Navoni, a historian at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, where the documents are housed, said Friday, “We need to find sponsors to come forward to help pay for analysis to establish the necessary therapy, and then do the treatment.”

The Codex, which consists of 12 leather-bound volumes, is kept in a vault at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana where temperature and humidity are constantly monitored. The mold was first identified in April 2006 by Carmen Bambach, a curator of drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and confirmed by conservation experts from the Florence-based state conservation institute, Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

Until more scientific analysis is done, the cause of the mold will remain unclear, said Cecilia Frosinini, the deputy director of the Opificio.

She said the mold could be the result of several factors, including exposure during any exhibition or study, or the unintended consequence of a restoration that began in 1968 and ended in 1972.

The Codex Atlanticus, so named because it was originally compiled as a single volume of miscellany comparable to an atlas, is the largest collection of Leonardo’s sheets. Formed at the end of the sixteenth century by the sculptor Pompeo Leoni, it is viewed by some scholars as a treasured but lamentable compilation, given that Leoni dismembered some of Leonardo’s notebooks to create it.

Over the centuries it has offered rich insights not only into Leonardo’s art, but also into his fascination with science, technology, architectural projects and urban planning.

< go back