NANTES, France (Reuters Life!) - A long-lost fragment of manuscript by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci has been uncovered in a public library in western France after lying forgotten in storage for nearly one and a half centuries.
The text, written from right to left in Da Vinci's trademark mirror-writing, was among 5,000 documents donated to the city of Nantes in 1872 by wealthy collector Pierre-Antoine Labouchere, and then left to languish in local archives.
It was only when a local journalist came across a reference to the document's location in a biography of the Italian master that the manuscript was finally tracked down.
"He was most probably writing in 15th-century Italian, and possibly in other languages, so it's now got to be deciphered," said Agnes Marcetteau, head of the Nantes library where the manuscript was found.
For the time being, however, the contents of the Da Vinci script -- a few lines on a yellowed scrap of paper -- remained a mystery and experts had yet to decipher the artist's brown scrawl, she said.
This is the second rare item uncovered in Labouchere's collection, after the discovery in 2008 of a never-before-seen score by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the major painters, scientists and thinkers of the Renaissance, and is best known in France for the Mona Lisa which attracts thousands of visitors each day to the Louvre museum in Paris.
In 1486, he designed a prototype for a flying machine with a rotating wing not unlike today's helicopters.
Reporting by Guillaume Frouin; Writing by Vicky Buffery, editing by Paul Casciato