Nov. 22, 2008 – Dee. 31, 2009
Mario Taddei: Ideazione, curatela, exhibition design, texts, fisical models, 3d machines, interactive stations, softwares & videos. Opening event & lectures. Leonardo3
Qatar Museums Authority © – chaired by Her Excellence Sheikh Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and directed by Abdulla Al Najjar.
“The Manuscript of Secrets,” dating back to the year 1000, is a priceless compilation, housing detailed descriptions and illustrations of over thirty ingenious devices. These include mechanical apparatuses, water clocks, automatic calendars, and war machines, collectively encapsulated in what is known as “The Book of Secrets.”
This invaluable work has found a permanent home in an exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. It became a focal point during the museum’s inauguration on November 22, 2008, capturing the attention of visitors. The exhibition features a cutting-edge digital and interactive reconstruction of the manuscript. Tridimensional models, animated through holographic touch screens, offer a vivid explanation of the intricacies of each machine to the public.
Notably, two of the machines described in “The Book of Secrets” were physically reconstructed—the formidable Fortress Demolisher (Figure 23, f. 35v) and the intricate Clock with Three Characters (Figure 11, f. 21r).
Under the patronage of the Emir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, an entire research group was funded, yielding exceptional results after months of dedicated work. The complexity of the manuscript had previously thwarted many experts’ attempts at interpretation. However, with the expertise and technological prowess of the Italian research professor, Mario Taddei, and his team, the manuscript saw groundbreaking progress. For the first time, it was transcribed into Arabic and translated into Italian, English, and French. Moreover, every machine detailed within its pages was not only interpreted but also meticulously reconstructed, breathing life into centuries-old designs and making the wisdom of the past accessible to contemporary audiences.
The comprehensive undertaking, orchestrated by the company Leonardo3 and funded by the Emir of Qatar, is now the property of the Qatar Museum and the State of Qatar under the patronage of His Highness the Sheikh. Mario Taddei, serving as a scientist affiliated with Leonardo3, played a pivotal role in overseeing the reconstruction of numerous machines detailed in the ancient manuscript. Additionally, he spearheaded the creation of multiple tridimensional models. Personally taking charge, Taddei not only constructed the model displayed in the museum but also conducted all scientific studies and analyses of the ancient manuscript. The culmination of these efforts now resides within the walls of the Qatar Museum, testament to the collaborative synergy between modern technology and historical wisdom.
This invaluable work has found a permanent and celebrated home in an exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. The exhibition’s grand unveiling took place on November 22, 2008, and marked a momentous occasion in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, alongside esteemed dignitaries and influential figures from the Gulf region and around the world. This event coincided with the inauguration of the museum, making the multimedia exhibition on the manuscript of Al Muradi’s “The Book of Secrets” one of the most significant presentations during this auspicious occasion.
The multimedia showcase, personally presented by Mario Taddei, the esteemed Italian research professor, brought the manuscript to life in a digital and interactive format. Taddei, with his team, dedicated months of diligent work to transcribe the ancient manuscript into Arabic and translate it into Italian, English, and French. This effort not only made the content accessible to a broader audience but also unveiled the intricacies of each machine through tridimensional models animated via holographic touch screens.
Of particular note were the physical reconstructions of two machines described in “The Book of Secrets”—the formidable Fortress Demolisher (Figure 23, f. 35v) and the intricate Clock with Three Characters (Figure 11, f. 21r).
The multimedia exhibition, personally introduced by Mario Taddei to the Emir, his wife, and all distinguished guests during the museum’s inauguration, showcased the remarkable intersection of ancient wisdom and modern technology. This presentation not only contributed to the understanding of historical technological advancements but also served as a testament to the enduring significance of innovation across centuries.
Mario Taddei and Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani
Mario Taddei and Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani
In the vibrant Islamic Golden Age of Cordova, an engineer named Ibn Khalaf al-Muradi penned a manuscript titled “Kitab al Asrar fi Nataij al Afkar,” a testament to the ingenuity of a bygone era. Fast forward to 2008, and Mario Taddei embarked on a mission to breathe life into the ancient machines described in this 10th-century Arabic manuscript, predating even the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.
Taddei, an Italian visionary, meticulously transcribed and translated the sole surviving copy, dating back to 1266, from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. Armed with modern technology, he reconstructed the machines in 3D, unveiling a myriad of wonders — from automata to hydraulic calendars and semi-automatic theaters — all conceived over a millennium ago.
The culmination of Taddei’s efforts found a home in the newly established Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. The exhibit showcased interactive 3D models, providing visitors with a glimpse into the advanced technological landscape of the past. Taddei’s work not only revived ancient machines but also shed light on a period often overshadowed in the Western narrative of technological history.
Reflecting on his journey, Taddei remarked, “Among the many, Machine Number 13 stood out — a complex and ingenious system of mechanical automata, snakes, men, and women, all powered by a water, mercury, and pulley ‘engine.’ It required extensive interpretation and effort.”
In conclusion, Mario Taddei’s dedication allowed us to transcend time and witness a technological marvel from the 10th century. This project not only revived ancient ingenuity but also highlighted the interconnectedness of cultures and the unexplored depths of our shared technological history.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 23 to 29 July 2017
25th International Congress of History of Science
and Technology – Rio de Janeiro 25 July
Symposium 69 – Visualization as a Historiographic Tool – Mario Taddei
Leonardo Da Vinci and Al Muradi
Multimedia Virtual archaeology as methodological tool ICHST2017 Rio