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$24 million for writing that goes backwards? That's the price a small notebook could fetch in December at an auction in London. The reason: the notebook is the only remaining privately-owned manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci.

Titled "Of the Nature, Weight and Movement of Water," it was written about 1507 in his characteristic right-to-left script. It has 36 well-preserved pages of brown ink writing and chalk drawings. It mixes poetical passages with discussions of oceans, the Moon, water pressure, even submarines. The manuscript has been in the family of the Earls of Leicester in Norfolk since 1717.

In an overseas buyer wins minister, leather-bound book, the arts minister, Norman st. John-Stevas may oppose granting an export licence until efforts are made locally to match the price and keep it in Britain.m

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