The first detailed biography of Leonardo, dating from around 1540, is attributed to the Anonimo Gaddiano, also known as the Anonimo Magliabechiano. It is found in today's Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, which was opened to the public for the first time in 1747 under the name of "Biblioteca Magliabechiana". It originates, in fact, from the private library of Antonio Magliabechi, made up of around 30,000 volumes, left in 1714, according to his will, «to the universal benefit of the city of Florence».
Originally, the Library occupied premises in the building complex of the Uffizi. In 1935 it was moved to its present seat, built starting in 1911 to the project of the architect Cesare Bazzani and subsequently enlarged by the architect Vincenzo Mazzei. On the outside of this twentieth-century building is a medallion with a portrait of Leonardo.
In 1771 Grand Duke Peter Leopold relinquished ownership of the Medici-Lotharingian Palatine Library and ordered it united to the Magliabechiana. Since then, the Library has been further enriched by many other precious collections, including those of the former monastic libraries, expropriated subsequent to the policy of suppression of monasteries enacted by Peter Leopold and continued by Napoleon.
The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale contains material fundamental for a knowledge of Leonardo and of the Renaissance. Among other works, there are several incomplete seventeenth-century manuscript copies of the Libro di Pittura: one coming from the Monastery of the Badia Fiorentina, two in the Magliabechiana Section, two in the Palatine, one in the Suppressed Monasteries repertory, and one coming from Vallombrosa.