23/04/2012 03:35 BST | Updated 14/12/2012 11:11 GMT

Leonardo Da Vinci's Groundbreaking Anatomy Sketches To Go On Display

Preparations are under way to stage the first display of Leonardo da Vinci's Leoni binding - the 16th century leather album which for more than 300 years held the most remarkable anatomical drawings ever produced.

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist opens on 4 May The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and will be the largest ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's ground-breaking studies of the human body.

Had Leonardo's drawings been published they would have transformed European knowledge of anatomy - instead they remained within the covers of the album, effectively lost to the world until the 20th century.

Exhibition curator Martin Clayton said: "The Leoni binding is a hugely important part of the 500-year story of Leonardo's anatomical drawings.

"For 300 years the binding was effectively the tomb of the drawings.

"It kept them together, and in wonderful condition, but it also ensured that they were not circulated or published.

"Only around 1900 did they emerge from the binding, and we now know that they were among the most amazingly detailed and accurate anatomical drawings of all time.

"And this exhibition will be the greatest opportunity since Leonardo's death to marvel at his achievement."

Long recognised as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, the exhibition will reveal Leonardo to be one of the most original and perceptive anatomists of his or any other time.

Between 1489 and 1513 the master produced detailed studies of bones, muscles and internal organs, including the heart and the brain.

He intended to publish his studies in a treatise on anatomy, but at the time of his death in 1519 his anatomical research remained among his private papers, a mass of undigested and disorganised material.

Leonardo bequeathed his notebooks and drawings to his young assistant Francesco Melzi.

Melzi died around 1570, and by 1590 his son had sold Leonardo's papers to the sculptor Pompeo Leoni.

It was Leoni who had the anatomical drawings bound together in an album (along with hundreds of other, more artistic drawings), with his name proudly alongside Leonardo's in gold lettering on the cover: Disegni di Leonardo da Vinci restaurati da Pompeo Leoni - translated to read "Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, preserved by Pompeo Leoni".