The architecture of this library is one of Michelangelo masterpieces, realised with the collaboration of extraordinary builders such as Tribolo, the master of Pierino Da Vinci.
The library contains the bibliographic materials collected by Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent that, at the fall of the Medici in 1494, were confiscated and turned over to the monks of San Marco. Giovanni de’ Medici (Pope Leo X) then moved them to Rome. They were returned to Florence in 1523 by Clement VII, who commissioned Michelangelo to build the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana the following year. One of the library's treasures is the Trattato di architettura civile e militare [Treatise on civil and military architecture] by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (Ash. 361), dating from 1484, with five autograph postils by Leonardo dating from around 1504.
The Laurentian Codex, Ashburnham 1299, is an incomplete manuscript copy dating from the 16th-17th century of the Libro di Pittura [Book on Painting], coming from the collection of Count Giuseppe Carlo Aurelio de’ Bossi (1758-1833).
The Ashburnham repertory includes around 2,000 manuscripts that belonged to the mathematician and bibliophile Guglielmo Libri (1809-1869), notorious for having purloined many codices from various libraries, as well as numerous papers from Leonardo 's manuscripts A and B now in Paris, including those that made up the "Codice sul volo degli uccelli" [Codex on the flight of birds] (now in the Turin Royal Library).
In the early 18th century, in Florence, three copies of the Codex Leicester were made by Francesco Ducci, "priest of San Lorenzo", the librarian of the Biblioteca Laurenziana.