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The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci - Complete - PDF ebook

The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci - Complete 

The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci


Excerpt from the book preface:

In respect to these Leonardo himself in his manuscripts must be accounted his own best biographer, in spite of what may appear the enigmatic brevity of some of his statements and inferences. It is not possible to claim for him originality in discovery in all the points wherein his researches anticipated principles which were subsequently established. 

So incomplete is the record of the intellectual life of Milan under the Sforzas, which has survived the storms of invasion that subsequently broke upon the city, as to cause positive statement on this point to be well-nigh impossible; something, however, should be al- lowed for the results of his intercourse with those who were occupied in the same fields of research. 

We are told that at a later period he was the friend of Marc Antonio della Torre who held the Chair of Anatomy in the University of Pavia and that they mutually assisted each other's studies. He was also the friend of Fra Luca Pacioli, the mathematician, and drew the diagrams for his De Divina Proportioned and two were companions for some time in the autumn and winter of 1499 after leaving Milan together at the time of the French invasion. 

Numerous references and notes which occur throughout the manuscripts show that he was indefatigable in seeking to acquire knowledge from every possible source, either by obtaining the loan of books or treatises or by application to those interested in the same studies. From the astrologers then to be found at Ludovic's court — Ambrogio da Rosate and the others — he learnt nothing. He rated their wisdom on a par with that of the alchemists and the seekers after perpetual motion. His study of the heavens differed from theirs as much in the method as in purpose. 

His instruments were scientific, and even at times suggestively modern. The line in the Codice Atlantico, 'construct glasses to see the moon large', Fa ochiali da vedere la luna grande” refers, however, only to the use of magnifying glasses; the invention of the telescope is to be assigned to the century following.

Although disclaiming for himself all title to the rank of literary artist he displays a remarkable power of lucid expression, so that his language seems exactly to mirror his thought and his phrases arrest by their simplicity.

 This literary quality pervades his humour, which is on occasion terse and trenchant, e.g. 'that venerable snail the sun'; 'Man has great power of speech but the greater part thereof is empty and deceitful. The animals have little but that little is useful and true, and better is a small and certain thing than a great falsehood'. 

The latter sentence might fitly serve as a proem to the 'A Bestiary' in Manuscript H, where it is stated of the great elephant that he has by nature qualities which rarely occur among men, namely probity, prudence, and the sense of justice and of religious observance. 

There is perhaps something of the same mood to be discerned in the instruction that the leather bags, intended to prevent an aviator from doing himself any harm if he chances to fall a height of six Braccia on water or on land, should be tied after the fashion of the beads of a rosary; or when after referring to the damage caused to great things by the firing of a cannon he speaks of the spiders' webs being all destroyed. So also were under the rubric '

Of the local movement of flexible dry things,' he discusses the movement of dust when a table is struck — of the dust which is separated into various hillocks descending from the hypotenuse of these hillocks, entering beneath their base and raising itself around the axis of the point of the hillock, and so moving as to seem a right-angled triangle. One finds one's self wondering when if ever the table was dusted, and reflecting as to how much his powers of observation would have been cramped by matrimony.


The same judgment was passed on to Leonardo's work as a philosopher and scientist by the earliest of his biographers. Yet in each case, the thinker is nearer to the verities. Faust is regenerated by the service of man from out of the hell of medieval tradition.

 It was the cramping fetter of medieval tradition upon thought which Leonardo toiled to un- loose. It was his aim to extend the limits of man's knowledge of himself, of his structure, of his environments, of all the forms of life around him, of the manner of the building up of the earth and sea, and of the firmament of the heavens. 

To this end, he toiled at the patient exposition of natural things, steadfastly, and in proud confidence of purpose. 'I wish, he says, 'to work miracles: I may have fewer possessions than other men who are more tranquil and than those who wish to grow rich in a day.'



book details :
  • Author: Leonardo da Vinci 
  • Editor: Edward MacCurdy
  • Publication date: 1955
  • Company: New York: Braziller- First published by Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939

  • Download The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci - 81.4 MB.- for the best experience, read big files on your computer.

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