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ATPM 4.06
June 1998



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Review: Leonardo da Vinci CD-ROM

by Robert Madill,


IMAGE imgs/page1305.gifProduct Information
Published by:
15395 SE 30th Place
Suite 300
Bellevue, WA 98007
Phone: (206) 641-4505

System Requirements
25 MHz 68030 or better
8 MB RAM (12 MB for Power Mac)
13" monitor or larger with 256 colors
2x CD-ROM drive
System 7.1 or higher

Brilliant! This word describes both the mind and work of Leonardo da Vinci and the multimedia production created by CORBIS. Don't spend your money on Leonardo and the "Titanic," this CD-ROM is a much better use of several hours and your hard earned dollars. The subject of this production is the best example of Petrarchs' true universal man of the Italian Renaissance. Da Vinci excelled as a painter, architect, engineer, scientist, philosopher, humanist, adventurer, and inventor. Even this list does not pay appropriate homage to the true genius of a man who was hundreds of year ahead of his time.

Above all else, he was able to dispel the 'darkness' of the mediaeval world and initiate the modern world potential of the human mind as an endless conduit for discovery and accomplishment. With Leonardo, there was the affirmation that "Man" was the measure of all things. Returning to the past accomplishments of the ancient Greeks and Romans, da Vinci reinforced the power and purpose of the worldly mind. Why is the sky blue? Why does the moon shine at night? Why does water swirl quickly to its inner vortex? These are several among many questions Leonardo da Vinci pursued during his lifetime.

Once we Mac users get past the facts that this project has been largely generated by a Microsoft affiliate, and the core material is based on the content of the purchase of da Vinci's CODEX LEICESTER by Bill Gates, we have to give full credit for a professional product and a very valuable contribution to our cultural heritage. And, you have to appreciate the purchase price of the CODEX--30,000 million US dollars! Yet this purchase price pales in light of the thoughts captured in this single 72-page manuscript and the associated Renaissance phenomena.

This production is user-friendly. A simple installation of QuickTime[TM] 2.5 and Indeo® Video R3.2, included on the CD, are all that is necessary to run the program. This leaves a very small 'footprint' on your hard drive as the program is run entirely from the CD-ROM. Both PowerPC and 68K installation options are available. Talk about simple! Touch any of the top numeric keys to adjust the sound volume. Tap "Esc" and you immediately exit the program. The "Help" control is as it says for every screen, and it gives you a tutorial for every section you are viewing.

After an informative introduction by Martin Kemp, Professor of Art History at Oxford University, and a personal statement concerning the profound understanding of Nature by da Vinci as seen by Mr. Bill Gates, you will be treated to a multi-level voyage through "Tours," the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Kemp's view is nicely reflected in his observation that da Vinci's method of interactive leaps is reflected in the format of this CD. The comparison of microcosm (the human body) and macrocosm (the universe) ends up being appropriately represented by the visual of a "tree" for the Main Menu.

IMAGE imgs/page1306.gif

The "Time Line" and other snippets of the program may mislead the novice to the history of the start of Renaissance. Several images and historical benchmarks lead one away from da Vinci to Massacio to Magritte. Although this may confuse the first-time viewer, the relevance to modern thought and imagery is only reinforced by the different time frames and imagery. This is truly a voyage of discovery.

There exists a simple "Guide" for using this CD. As with the other options in this production, you are given a well-narrated guide for navigating through the CODEX, da Vinci's limited painting portfolio, and the general context of the Renaissance period within which he worked. The real heart of the production is the 72 page CODEX LEICESTER. Six areas of exploration were recorded by da Vinci: 'Dynamics of Water,' 'Rivers and Seas,' 'Body of Earth,' 'Astronomy,' 'Atmosphere,' and 'Experiments'. This may sound pretty academic and boring to those of you who are 'working' the latest of the 3-D 'Shoot-em-ups', but trust me, you'll spend more hours of benefit exploring the 'tree' than pushing the kill button. The visual and animated re-enactments of Leonardo's experiments are well worth your time in front of the screen. Often the 'old theories' are nicely reinforced by contemporary photographs and historical scenarios.

IMAGE imgs/page1307.gifOne of the most fascinating aspects of the CD-ROM is the creation of the Codescope[TM], a unique viewing and translation tool designed by CORBIS whereby users are able to translate the CODEX LEICESTER into Italian or English, and allowing the reversal of the trademark da Vinci mirror writing associated with Leonardo's' sketchbooks. This tool allows for an easy exploration of all pages of the journal. This visit is easy and reminiscent of an "arm-chair" museum visit. The six themes mentioned above can be easily explored with this unique multimedia tool.

IMAGE imgs/page1308.gifA trip to the "Leonardo da Vinci Gallery" would usually garner interest in the "Mona Lisa." I find the visual of the "Madonna of the Rocks" to be most representative of the paintings. The foreground figures may be interesting, but it is obvious that da Vinci was more intrigued with painting the "grotto" and landscape beyond. The enigma of the landscape was a fixation of this genius. It is also interesting that da Vinci was working with a geocentric theory of the heavens--long since proven inaccurate. He even postulated that the reflective quality of the moon was a result of a water covering. Gosh, didn't we just discover that there is a deposit of water on the moon. Not the water postulated by da Vinci...but he was not far off.

The "Virtual Eight-Room Gallery Space" harbors the intensive nature and accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci's ideas and theories concerning the earth, water, heavens, and their interrelationship. This area of the CD contains over one hundred of his works and all of his paintings. One additional facet of this aspect of the production is the ability to 'zoom' in on particular images. Put your machine on millions of colors and enjoy the positive aspects of digitalized images.

While on this topic, CORBIS is setup to be a virtual bank of visual imagery ranging from twentieth century Ansel Adams photographs to Northern European paintings such as Jan van Eyck's "Arnolfini and Bride" and everything in between. One can discover that CORBIS is one of the largest digital archives on the 'net. This gives great potential for the high school student IMAGE imgs/page1309.gifwishing to illustrate an essay or a corporation seeking that perfect image for a brochure.No, I'm not trying to sell this corporation.I merely support the preservation of anyimage associated with our culture andheritage. Kudos to any corporation orindividual who attempts the same.

My initial response to this production wasthat it was too brief. Upon a more completeanalysis, I came to the conclusion that thisproduction would hold the interest of boththe novice and scholar. "Leonardo da Vinci"is definitely a worthwhile addition to yourCD-ROM Library. And, how can one leavethe review without that famous enigmaticsmile?

Blue AppleCopyright ©1998 Robert Madill, <>. Mr. Madill is aProfessor of Art and Architectural History on the faculty of Architecture atthe University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Reader Comments (37)

Amanda Barcklay · June 5, 2000 - 01:01 EST #1
Your web page is misleading. It makes you think that you are going to see the paintings from Leonardo da Vinci. All you get are stories about him and really tiny pictures of things that you can't even see. I'm not trying to come off as a bitch, I'm just saying you need bigger and better pictures of his artwork. I needed the pictures for my World History school assignment.
Rubaika Karim · February 24, 2001 - 01:01 EST #2
Me too! I need the full picture of the Mona Lisa. Not small writings I can't see.
Omar Kayam · December 12, 2001 - 22:06 EST #3
So, your browser only came up with this one page then, eh? I doubt it!! It does have reference to Leonardo and enigmatic, hence your arrival here. Interesting comments from the author, obviously part of a much larger project.
Andrew Hills · September 13, 2003 - 15:57 EST #4
Can anyone tell me where I can buy a Mac version of this CD-ROM?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · September 13, 2003 - 17:02 EST #5
Andrew - you're liable to have a very rough time finding this title any more because it's so old. If searches on Amazon or eBay don't turn it up for you, you should try contacting Corbis directly to see if they can still provide it or know where you might find it. Contact info is at the top of this page, thought I'd recommend seeing if that info is updated by getting their contact info directly from their web site.
Kara Lisa Wade · May 27, 2004 - 17:45 EST #6
I am a big fan of Leonardo's work, so can you tell me how long it took Leonardo to draw The Last Supper?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · May 27, 2004 - 20:50 EST #7
Kara - about four years, between 1495 to 1498
Sally Anderson · September 25, 2004 - 21:50 EST #8
I was Associate Producer, Lead Writer, and Senior Editor for this CD-ROM -- sadly, one of the last ever produced by Corbis. Students can probably purchase some but not all of Leonardo's images via the Corbis website. (Many were licensed for one-time use only.) The CD-ROM has been out of print for several years. When the out-of-print announcement was made internally at Corbis, I bought a number of them as gifts. I can still say in 2004 that this is a uniquely informative view, with updates 500 years later incorporating fresh (but only proven) research by the most respected living Leonardo scholars worldwide. It is an extraordinary opportunity to explore not only the codex and Leonardo's thought processes, but to view multitudes of his works closer than most will ever be able to see originals (some of which are not even available to the public). This was not only an award-winning, premium production; to the production team it was a labor of passion, and the passion shows in the level of research, depth, and gorgeous quality. I'd be glad to answer questions about Leonardo or what we learned in our research, within reason; and would consider selling a few copies of the 10 I have remaining. If any part of this offer might be helpful, you might post requests here. It's a pleasure to have stumbled across this insightful review and to see that this incredible project continues to have the impact it richly deserves.
Robert Slotpole · October 4, 2004 - 18:08 EST #9

That's a very generous offer. I would be interested in obtaining one copy of the codescope CD. Could you send me more information?

Bob Slotpole
Jim Hopton · October 29, 2004 - 11:39 EST #10
Dear Ms. Anderson,

It was my great fortune to stumble upon this review and your comments.

Our Elementary School uses Leonardo and his great works as a "point of departure" for a school-wide technology infused, project based unit. Through Leonardo, our students connect, math, science, technology, art, writing, and nutrition. Please check our "Lunch with Leo" PowerPoint Presentation on our School's web site:

We would love to add the Leonardo CD-ROM to our growing collection of Leonardo instructional material. Please let us know if you could spare one more CD.

Jim Hopton
Jefferson-Morgan Elementary School
richard gladding · January 3, 2005 - 00:08 EST #11
Hello, I am trying to get a copy of this cd as well. Looks very educational and I am having some difficulty finding a copy.

Thank you,
Richard Gladding
Steve Lutz · January 12, 2005 - 17:32 EST #12
I am a Leonardo Da Vinci fan aand would appreciate any information on how to purchase this CD ROM package. Thank you very much.
Matthew McCauley · January 17, 2005 - 14:36 EST #13
To Sally Anderson: I just saw your post and would be interested in purchasing one of the CD ROMs, if you still have any.

Matthew McCauley
Xavier Mora · February 1, 2005 - 06:20 EST #14
To Sally Anderson: I would greatly appreciate very much if you could sell me one copy ot the CD-ROM about Leonardo da Vinci.

Xavier Mora
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Leonard Ingles · February 25, 2005 - 10:40 EST #15
Dear Sally
I too missed the chance to obtain this wonderful piece of software at the time that it was on sale and have spent several years trying to obtain it second hand to no avail. It may be the case that I am too late this time, but I live in hope. Any reply would be most appreciated.
Joana Pauperio · April 14, 2005 - 12:34 EST #16
Dear Ms. Anderson,

I am writing on behalf of Visionarium, a Science Centre in Portugal that sets its main goal in educating people through interactive exhibitions within all areas of science. We are, at the moment, producing an exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci and his experiments on the water, including some of his notes on Codex Leicester.

This exhibition is being made in association with the National Museum of Sciences and Technology, who owns one of the three collections built by IBM from Leonardo da Vinci's notes on war and flight machines and water experiments. In addition to that, the organisation of the International Exposition in Lisbon, Expo 98, has donated to us the contents of the exhibit Leonardo Da Vinci@expo98 - La Dinamica Dell Acqua, which will also be used in this exhibition.

As we understand, the organisation of Lisbon's Expo 98 bought the Leonardo da Vinci CD-ROM from Corbis. According to the information I got from Corbis, this CD is no longer for sale. Through an internet search, I found this blog and your name as one of the few people who still have a copy of the CD.

I would like to know if you still have any copy of this CD for sale, and in case you don't, if you know any place where I can purchase this CD in order to have it on the exhibition.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Joana Pauperio
Hamza Khan · May 8, 2005 - 13:40 EST #17
I Would like to hav a copy to...searching it for a while!
Lucia Chiara · August 31, 2005 - 18:57 EST #18
I have been calling around to find thie Cd also as I have been using the book "Thinking like Leonardo Da Vinci" with my 3-5th grade Gifted students, (beginning a few years before the Da Vinci Code!!) How odd that whoever owns rights to this document has not seen their advantage in re-releasing it. Maybe the person who wrote that they worked on it originally could get something going. KIDS DISCOVERY MAGAZINE also discontinued their DaVinci educat'onal publication which looked like it was super. I hope people continue to post other sources that they find.
Stephen Tycer · September 27, 2005 - 17:21 EST #19
Sally, I too am a big fan of Leonardo. I know that I am several years too late but I would love to purchase a copy of this CD.
desiree mccrorey · October 18, 2005 - 18:29 EST #20
Sally Anderson, It's a pleasure to "meet" you. I have been a user interface designer for over 20 years and I can count on one hand the number of software products I felt were well designed and executed. Corbis' DaVinci is one.

and the passion shows in the level of research, depth, and gorgeous quality.

I completely concur. It's always so gratifying to encounter a high quality product. Sadly, they're very rare.

Being a software designer, one of my favorite features of the product were the various navigational models used. In its day, those were unheard of. Such pioneering work.

I still have the CD, but I didn't realize how valuable it was until this moment! ;-)

Tania Creighton · November 30, 2005 - 00:02 EST #21
Dear Ms. Anderson,

I am writing on behalf of University of Technology Sydney, we are also investigating staging an exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci Models

Could you please advise me on how to go about purchasing a copy of your CD Rom

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tania Creighton
mike selnick · December 7, 2005 - 17:00 EST #22
Dear Ms. Anderson and all,

Kindly reply with more information as to how we may purchase a copy of the CD package that the talented people at Corbis produced. It will provide great inspiration for local youngsters and Boy Scouts we would like to inspire.

Thank you,
Mike Selnick
Chinghsin Wu · December 9, 2005 - 06:09 EST #23
Dear Sally,

I saw and used the CD three years ago. It inspired our team when we were designing a DVD that records the collection of the National Palace Museum.

It was belong to the team so I don't have it now.
I wonder if you still have CDs and I would like to buy a copy of it.

Thank you very much,
Chinghsin Wu
mike rochette · January 2, 2006 - 10:50 EST #24
Hello folks,

I have a couple used copies of the MacIntosh Version. They came from the Bellevue Washington School Surplus sale. I would be willing to negotiate.

mike rochette
Juan Garcia · January 16, 2006 - 11:53 EST #25
Hi all:

A friend gave me the CD as a birthday present. But unfortunately it is the Macintosh version and I have a Windows XP system. Anyone with a Windows version available interested on exchanging it?

chris mailander · June 8, 2006 - 02:08 EST #26

I am interested in hearing from anyone who would like to sell a well-preserved original copy of the Corbis da Vinci CD.

Katherine Harrobin · October 20, 2007 - 18:00 EST #27
Is there anywhere I can purchase the Leonardo da Vinci CD Rom today?
Sally Anderson · October 21, 2007 - 02:52 EST #28
Open Letter to those wanting a copy of the Corbis Leonardo CD-ROM:

Apologies for not staying in touch with this website; the requests forwarded to me that I responded to early on didn't yield any response in return, but I do believe in promoting this CD-ROM for furtherance of education... and would like to help however possible.

Because so many requests are from earlier years, I'll say from scratch that I have a limited number of copies for both the unnameable and Mac that I'm willing to part with, adding my email address: sallyand (at)

Seeing now that there are more requests than I've been aware of over the years, and for so many good causes, please contact me if you still have interest.

You might also try eBay, where I've seen some offered over the past couple of years.
LoveEmHateEm · October 21, 2007 - 09:29 EST #29
I thoroughly appreciate Da Vinci's contribtions to the world. I have once seen this CD-Rom a few years ago. EBay recently had one of the unnameable versions up for bid but it apparently was not sold due to the reserved price not being met. I will continue to scour the countryside for any libraries etc. willing to sell a copy. If anyone has a lead, please email me at homerunsigns (at) My desire would be to obtain a copy of this CD-Rom and use it among my peers as an historic training aid at my local lodge. Any help would be appreciated.
Sally Anderson · November 1, 2007 - 03:37 EST #30
To restate, or to state more clearly: I have a bare-bones number of copies of the Corbis Leonardo CD-ROM, unopened, in equal Mac quantities and that which is unmentionable but which produced it.

I have them only because I was among the several whose passion it was to make this the best possible contemporary illumination of Leonardo's lifework, inspired by the unusual occasion of a Leonardo codex passing ownership. History continued to reveal new stories even during the creation of this CD-ROM.

I'm heartened by the level of response here, and have a personal passion for educational uses... but without email addresses I'm unable to respond to specific requests.

I'll do my best to respond to interested parties who send me an email address during November.
Edutainment Cd-rom fan · December 5, 2007 - 18:00 EST #31
Corbis might be squandering a marketing opportunity? or maybe the majority of people these days are only interested in shoot em up games. Their loss I think.
Peter Kussell · February 9, 2009 - 17:23 EST #32

I have a near perfect copy of the Leonardo, which I think requires MacOS9 to run. I also have unopened copies of Corbis' other CD-ROMS: Volcanoes, FDR, etc.
max chiou · August 28, 2010 - 22:23 EST #33
Dear Ms. Anderson,

I am interested in the CD. Is it still available?
Jeff Wherrett · April 11, 2012 - 10:22 EST #34
It was a truly an amazing experience being a part of the Corbis team that created this and 4 other titles. My how technology changes!
Peter Ben Kussell Ph.D. · April 12, 2012 - 08:21 EST #35
I have all four titles. Da Vinci. FDR Volcanoes Three unopened. Will they still run on modern Macs?
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 12, 2012 - 12:15 EST #36
Peter - no sir, I'm afraid they will not. Besides the fact that Macs dropped support for classic operation (that means before OS X) quite a long time ago, the most recent Macs and the lion operating system won't even run some of the original OS X applications for the PowerPC Macs. In other words, if you're running lion (Mac OS X 10.7) the app has to be encoded for Intel CPUs. NO apps that were written for OS 9 and earlier are Intel-compatible.
Peter Ben Kussell Ph.D. · April 12, 2012 - 13:30 EST #37
Thanks for the advice. I still hold on to my Mac 640AV so I can play them!

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