This collection of rare books, prints, and facsimiles about Leonardo da Vinci started with our esteemed alumnus, John W. Lieb (Stevens class of 1880). One of the most unique books in the collection is the Divina Proportione by Luca Pacioli (1509). Luca Pacioli was a great mathematician and also the math tutor of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci drew the geometrical woodcut illustrations in the Divina Proportione. This 1509 edition is Leonardo da Vinci’s only work to appear in print during his lifetime.
John W. Lieb Biography
John W. Lieb was born in Newark, New Jersey, on February 12, 1860, and graduated from Stevens with an M.E. in 1880. He then entered the service of Thomas A. Edison in January of 1881. In November 1882, Mr. Lieb was selected by Edison to set up and install the first Central Electric Station in Europe, which was in Milan, Italy. Lieb remained in Italy for 10 years. During his time in Italy as Chief Engineer of the Italian Edison Company, Lieb became interested in the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Lieb collected every worthwhile book, folio, pamphlet, or manuscript on Leonardo da Vinci that he could find.
The John W. Lieb Memorial Collection of Leonardo da Vinci was donated posthumously by Lieb’s close friend Samuel Insull and dedicated at Stevens Institute of Technology on Thomas Edison's birthday, February 11, 1932. Although more ubiquitous today, at the time the collection was dedicated at Stevens it was described in The Stute newspaper as, “the collection for completeness, from the scholar’s point of view, is believed to be unrivaled in this country as it brings together in one place reproductions of all the known Vinciana documents preserved in various libraries in Europe, especially in Milan and in Paris and in the Windsor Castle collection in England.”