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Microsoft and the British Library have digitised two of Leonardo da Vincis' notebooks.

British Library CEO Lynne Brindley said to celebrate the consumer launch of Vista it would offer free access to two da Vinci notebooks - one owned by the library, and one from Gates's private collection.

The British Library has created an updated version of its application called "Turning the Pages" which allows people to browse parts of its 150 million piece collection via a web browser. We heard how this works better using Vista.

Gates paid $30.8m for the Codex Leicester in 1994. He said his wife wasn't very impressed when he said he'd bought a notebook - until he told her it was one of da Vinci's.

The British Library owns a second notebook called Codex Arundel. Both books will be freely available at the British Library website for the next six months.

The "Turning the Pages" software allows you to move and turn the pages as well as zoom in and rotate them. It also allows you to make notes - either for yourself or make them public. Brindley said this would be of interest to the general public as well as offering new opportunities for scholars.

Referring to a da Vinci riddle "Feathers shall raise men, as they do birds, toward heaven - that is by letters written using quills," she said: "We hope to let the ideas of Leonardo take wing as never before."

Some Leonardo pages, but not the Codex Leicester, are available to non-Windows users in a Shockwave version. ®

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