The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Complete
by Leonardo Da Vinci
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The vine that has grown old on an old tree falls with the ruin of that tree, and through that bad companionship must perish with it.

The torrent carried so much earth and stones into its bed, that it was then constrained to change its course.

The net that was wont to take the fish was seized and carried away by the rush of fish.

The ball of snow when, as it rolls, it descends from the snowy mountains, increases in size as it falls.

The willow, which by its long shoots hopes as it grows, to outstrip every other plant, from having associated itself with the vine which is pruned every year was always crippled.


Fable of the tongue bitten by the teeth.

The cedar puffed up with pride of its beauty, separated itself from the trees around it and in so doing it turned away towards the wind, which not being broken in its fury, flung it uprooted on the earth.

The traveller's joy, not content in its hedge, began to fling its branches out over the high road, and cling to the opposite hedge, and for this it was broken away by the passers by.


The goldfinch gives victuals to its caged young. Death rather than loss of liberty. [Footnote: Above this text is another note, also referring to liberty; see No. 694.]


(Of Bags.)

Goats will convey the wine to the city.


All those things which in winter are hidden under the snow, will be uncovered and laid bare in summer. (for Falsehood, which cannot remain hidden).



The lily set itself down by the shores of the Ticino, and the current carried away bank and the lily with it.



Why Hungarian ducats have a double cross on them.



A vase of unbaked clay, when broken, may be remoulded, but not a baked one.


Seeing the paper all stained with the deep blackness of ink, it he deeply regrets it; and this proves to the paper that the words, composed upon it were the cause of its being preserved.


The pen must necessarily have the penknife for a companion, and it is a useful companionship, for one is not good for much without the other.

Schemes for prophecies (1324-1329).


The knife, which is an artificial weapon, deprives man of his nails, his natural weapons.

The mirror conducts itself haughtily holding mirrored in itself the Queen. When she departs the mirror remains there ...


Flax is dedicated to death, and to the corruption of mortals. To death, by being used for snares and nets for birds, animals and fish; to corruption, by the flaxen sheets in which the dead are wrapped when they are buried, and who become corrupt in these winding sheets.— And again, this flax does not separate its fibre till it has begun to steep and putrefy, and this is the flower with which garlands and decorations for funerals should be made.


(Of Peasants who work in shirts)

Shadows will come from the East which will blacken with great colour darkness the sky that covers Italy.

(Of the Barbers.)

All men will take refuge in Africa.


The cloth which is held in the hand in the current of a running stream, in the waters of which the cloth leaves all its foulness and dirt, is meant to signify this &c.

By the thorn with inoculated good fruit is signified those natures which of themselves were not disposed towards virtue, but by the aid of their preceptors they have the repudation of it.



A wretched person will be flattered, and these flatterers are always the deceivers, robbers and murderers of the wretched person.

The image of the sun where it falls appears as a thing which covers the person who attempts to cover it.

(Money and Gold.)

Out of cavernous pits a thing shall come forth which will make all the nations of the world toil and sweat with the greatest torments, anxiety and labour, that they may gain its aid.

(Of the Dread of Poverty.)

The malicious and terrible [monster] will cause so much terror of itself in men that they will rush together, with a rapid motion, like madmen, thinking they are escaping her boundless force.

(Of Advice.)

The man who may be most necessary to him who needs him, will be repaid with ingratitude, that is greatly contemned.


(Of Bees.)

They live together in communities, they are destroyed that we may take the honey from them. Many and very great nations will be destroyed in their own dwellings.



This animal has a horror of the poor, because they eat poor food, and it loves the rich, because they have good living and especially meat. And the excrement of animals always retains some virtue of its origin as is shown by the faeces ...

Now dogs have so keen a smell, that they can discern by their nose the virtue remaining in these faeces, and if they find them in the streets, smell them and if they smell in them the virtue of meat or of other things, they take them, and if not, they leave them: And to return to the question, I say that if by means of this smell they know that dog to be well fed, they respect him, because they judge that he has a powerful and rich master; and if they discover no such smell with the virtue of meet, they judge that dog to be of small account and to have a poor and humble master, and therefore they bite that dog as they would his master.


The circular plans of carrying earth are very useful, inasmuch as men never stop in their work; and it is done in many ways. By one of these ways men carry the earth on their shoulders, by another in chests and others on wheelbarrows. The man who carries it on his shoulders first fills the tub on the ground, and he loses time in hoisting it on to his shoulders. He with the chests loses no time. [Footnote: The subject of this text has apparently no connection with the other texts of this section.]

Irony (1332).


If Petrarch was so fond of bay, it was because it is of a good taste in sausages and with tunny; I cannot put any value on their foolery. [Footnote: Conte Porro has published these lines in the Archivio Stor. Lombarda VIII, IV; he reads the concluding line thus: I no posso di loro gia (sic) co' far tesauro.—This is known to be by a contemporary poet, as Senatore Morelli informs me.]

Tricks (1333-1335).


We are two brothers, each of us has a brother. Here the way of saying it makes it appear that the two brothers have become four.



Take in each hand an equal number; put 4 from the right hand into the left; cast away the remainder; cast away an equal number from the left hand; add 5, and now you will find 13 in this [left] hand; that is-I made you put 4 from the right hand into the left, and cast away the remainder; now your right hand has 4 more; then I make you throw away as many from the right as you threw away from the left; so, throwing from each hand a quantity of which the remainder may be equal, you now have 4 and 4, which make 8, and that the trick may not be detec- ted I made you put 5 more, which made 13.


Take any number less than 12 that you please; then take of mine enough to make up the number 12, and that which remains to me is the number which you at first had; because when I said, take any number less than 12 as you please, I took 12 into my hand, and of that 12 you took such a number as made up your number of 12; and what you added to your number, you took from mine; that is, if you had 8 to go as far as to 12, you took of my 12, 4; hence this 4 transferred from me to you reduced my 12 to a remainder of 8, and your 8 became 12; so that my 8 is equal to your 8, before it was made 12.

[Footnote 1334: G. Govi says in the 'Saggio' p. 22: Si dilett Leonarda, di giuochi di prestigi e molti (?) ne descrisse, che si leggono poi riportati dal Paciolo nel suo libro: de Viribus Quantitatis, e che, se non tutti, sono certo in gran parte invenzioni del Vinci.]


If you want to teach someone a subject you do not know yourself, let him measure the length of an object unknown to you, and he will learn the measure you did not know before;—Master Giovanni da Lodi.


Letters. Personal Records. Dated Notes.

When we consider how superficial and imperfect are the accounts of Leonardo's life written some time after his death by Vasari and others, any notes or letters which can throw more light on his personal circumstances cannot fail to be in the highest degree interesting. The texts here given as Nos. 1351—1353, set his residence in Rome in quite a new aspect; nay, the picture which irresistibly dwells in our minds after reading these details of his life in the Vatican, forms a striking contrast to the contemporary life of Raphael at Rome.

_I have placed foremost of these documents the very remarkable letters to the Defterdar of Syria. In these Leonardo speaks of himself as having staid among the mountains of Armenia, and as the biographies of the master tell nothing of any such distant journeys, it would seem most obvious to treat this passage as fiction, and so spare ourselves the onus of proof and discussion. But on close examination no one can doubt that these documents, with the accompanying sketches, are the work of Leonardo's own hand. Not merely is the character of the handwriting his, but the spelling and the language are his also. In one respect only does the writing betray any marked deviation from the rest of the notes, especially those treating on scientific questions; namely, in these observations he seems to have taken particular pains to give the most distinct and best form of expression to all he had to say; we find erasures and emendations in almost every line. He proceeded, as we shall see, in the same way in the sketches for letters to Giuliano de' Medici, and what can be more natural, I may ask, than to find the draft of a letter thus altered and improved when it is to contain an account of a definite subject, and when personal interests are in the scale? The finished copies as sent off are not known to exist; if we had these instead of the rough drafts, we might unhesitatingly have declared that some unknown Italian engineer must have been, at that time, engaged in Armenia in the service of the Egyptian Sultan, and that Leonardo had copied his documents. Under this hypothesis however we should have to state that this unknown writer must have been so far one in mind with Leonardo as to use the same style of language and even the same lines of thought. This explanation might—as I say—have been possible, if only we had the finished letters. But why should these rough drafts of letters be regarded as anything else than what they actually and obviously are? If Leonardo had been a man of our own time, we might perhaps have attempted to account for the facts by saying that Leonardo, without having been in the East himself, might have undertaken to write a Romance of which the scene was laid in Armenia, and at the desire of his publisher had made sketches of landscape to illustrate the text.

I feel bound to mention this singular hypothesis as it has actually been put forward (see No. 1336 note 5); and it would certainly seem as though there were no other possible way of evading the conclusion to which these letters point, and their bearing on the life of the master,—absurd as the alternative is. But, if, on a question of such importance, we are justified in suggesting theories that have no foundation in probability, I could suggest another which, as compared with that of a Fiction by Leonardo, would be neither more nor less plausible; it is, moreover the only other hypothesis, perhaps, which can be devised to account for these passages, if it were possible to prove that the interpretation that the documents themselves suggest, must be rejected a priori; viz may not Leonardo have written them with the intention of mystifying those who, after his death, should try to decipher these manuscripts with a view to publishing them? But if, in fact, no objection that will stand the test of criticism can be brought against the simple and direct interpretation of the words as they stand, we are bound to regard Leonardo's travels in the East as an established fact. There is, I believe nothing in what we know of his biography to negative such a fact, especially as the details of his life for some few years are wholly unknown; nor need we be at a loss for evidence which may serve to explain—at any rate to some extent—the strangeness of his undertaking such a journey. We have no information as to Leonardo's history between 1482 and 1486; it cannot be proved that he was either in Milan or in Florence. On the other hand the tenor of this letter does not require us to assume a longer absence than a year or two. For, even if his appointment (offitio) as Engineer in Syria had been a permanent one, it might have become untenable—by the death perhaps of the Defterdar, his patron, or by his removal from office—, and Leonardo on his return home may have kept silence on the subject of an episode which probably had ended in failure and disappointment.

From the text of No. 1379 we can hardly doubt that Leonardo intended to make an excursion secretly from Rome to Naples, although so far as has hitherto been known, his biographers never allude to it. In another place (No. 1077) he says that he had worked as an Engineer in Friuli. Are we to doubt this statement too, merely because no biographer has hitherto given us any information on the matter? In the geographical notes Leonardo frequently speaks of the East, and though such passages afford no direct proof of his having been there, they show beyond a doubt that, next to the Nile, the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Taurus mountains had a special interest in his eyes. As a still further proof of the futility of the argument that there is nothing in his drawings to show that he had travelled in the East, we find on Pl. CXX a study of oriental heads of Armenian type,—though of course this may have been made in Italy.

If the style of these letters were less sober, and the expressions less strictly to the point throughout, it miglit be possible to regard them as a romantic fiction instead of a narrative of fact. Nay, we have only to compare them with such obviously fanciful passages as No. 1354, Nos. 670-673, and the Fables and Prophecies. It is unnecessary to discuss the subject any further here; such explanations as the letter needs are given in the foot notes.

The drafts of letters to Lodovico il Moro are very remarkable. Leonardo and this prince were certainly far less closely connected, than has hitherto been supposed. It is impossible that Leonardo can have remained so long in the service of this prince, because the salary was good, as is commonly stated. On the contrary, it would seem, that what kept him there, in spite of his sore need of the money owed him by the prince, was the hope of some day being able to carry out the project of casting the_ 'gran cavallo'.

Drafts of Letters and Reports referring to Armenia (1336. 1337).



[3] The recent disaster in our Northern parts which I am certain will terrify not you alone but the whole world, which

[Footnote: Lines 1-52 are reproduced in facsimile on Pl. CXVI.

1. Diodario. This word is not to be found in any Italian dictionary, and for a long time I vainly sought an explanation of it. The youthful reminiscences of my wife afforded the desired clue. The chief town of each Turkish Villayet, or province —such as Broussa, for instance, in Asia Minor, is the residence of a Defterdar, who presides over the financial affairs of the province. Defterdar hane was, in former times, the name given to the Ministry of Finance at Constantinople; the Minister of Finance to the Porte is now known as the Mallie-Nazri and the Defterdars are his subordinates. A Defterdar, at the present day is merely the head of the finance department in each Provincial district. With regard to my suggestion that Leonardo's Diodario might be identical with the Defterdar of former times, the late M. C. DEFREMERIE, Arabic Professor, and Membre de l'Institut de France wrote to me as follows: Votre conjecture est parfaitement fondee; diodario est Vequivalent de devadar ou plus exactement devatdar, titre d'une importante dignite en Egypt'e, sous les Mamlouks.

The word however is not of Turkish, but of Perso-Arabie derivation. [Defter written in arab?] literally Defter (Arabic) meaning folio; for dar (Persian) Bookkeeper or holder is the English equivalent; and the idea is that of a deputy in command. During the Mamelook supremacy over Syria, which corresponded in date with Leonardo's time, the office of Defterdar was the third in importance in the State.

Soltano di Babilonia. The name of Babylon was commonly applied to Cairo in the middle ages. For instance BREIDENBACH, Itinerarium Hierosolyma p. 218 says: "At last we reached Babylon. But this is not that Babylon which stood on the further shore of the river Chober, but that which is called the Egyptian Babylon. It is close by Cairo and the twain are but one and not two towns; one half is called Cairo and the other Babylon, whence they are called together Cairo-Babylon; originally the town is said to have been named Memphis and then Babylon, but now it is called Cairo." Compare No. 1085, 6.

Egypt was governed from 1382 till 1517 by the Borgite or Tcherkessian dynasty of the Mamelook Sultans. One of the most famous of these, Sultan Kait Bey, ruled from 1468-1496 during whose reign the Gama (or Mosque) of Kait Bey and tomb of Kait Bey near the Okella Kait Bey were erected in Cairo, which preserve his name to this day. Under the rule of this great and wise prince many foreigners, particularly Italians, found occupation in Egypt, as may be seen in the 'Viaggio di Josaphat Barbaro', among other travellers. "Next to Leonardo (so I learn from Prof. Jac. Burckhardt of Bale) Kait Bey's most helpful engineer was a German who in about 1487, superintended the construction of the Mole at Alexandria. Felix Fabri knew him and mentions him in his Historia Suevorum, written in 1488."

3. Il nuovo accidente accaduto, or as Leonardo first wrote and then erased, e accaduto un nuovo accidente. From the sequel this must refer to an earthquake, and indeed these were frequent at that period, particularly in Asia Minor, where they caused immense mischief. See No. 1101 note.]

shall be related to you in due order, showing first the effect and then the cause. [Footnote 4: The text here breaks off. The following lines are a fresh beginning of a letter, evidently addressed to the same person, but, as it would seem, written at a later date than the previous text. The numerous corrections and amendments amply prove that it is not a copy from any account of a journey by some unknown person; but, on the contrary, that Leonardo was particularly anxious to choose such words and phrases as might best express his own ideas.]

Finding myself in this part of Armenia [Footnote 5: Parti d'Erminia. See No. 945, note. The extent of Armenia in Leonardo's time is only approximately known. In the XVth century the Persians governed the Eastern, and the Arabs the Southern portions. Arabic authors—as, for instance Abulfeda—include Cilicia and a part of Cappadocia in Armenia, and Greater Armenia was the tract of that country known later as Turcomania, while Armenia Minor was the territory between Cappadocia and the Euphrates. It was not till 1522, or even 1574 that the whole country came under the dominion of the Ottoman Turks, in the reign of Selim I.

The Mamelook Sultans of Egypt seem to have taken a particular interest in this, the most Northern province of their empire, which was even then in danger of being conquered by the Turks. In the autumn of 1477 Sultan Kait Bey made a journey of inspection, visiting Antioch and the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates with a numerous and brilliant escort. This tour is briefly alluded to by Moodshireddin p. 561; and by WEIL, Geschichte der Abbasiden V, p. 358. An anonymous member of the suite wrote a diary of the expedition in Arabic, which has been published by R. V. LONZONE ('Viaggio in Palestina e Soria di Kaid Ba XVIII sultano della II dinastia mamelucca, fatto nel 1477. Testo arabo. Torino 1878', without notes or commentary). Compare the critique on this edition, by J. GILDEMEISTER in Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palaestina Vereins (Vol. Ill p. 246—249). Lanzone's edition seems to be no more than an abridged copy of the original. I owe to Professor Sche'fer, Membre de l'Institut, the information that he is in possession of a manuscript in which the text is fuller, and more correctly given. The Mamelook dynasty was, as is well known, of Circassian origin, and a large proportion of the Egyptian Army was recruited in Circassia even so late as in the XVth century. That was a period of political storms in Syria and Asia Minor and it is easy to suppose that the Sultan's minister, to whom Leonardo addresses his report as his superior, had a special interest in the welfare of those frontier provinces. Only to mention a few historical events of Sultan Kait Bey's reign, we find that in 1488 he assisted the Circassians to resist the encroachments of Alaeddoulet, an Asiatic prince who had allied himself with the Osmanli to threaten the province; the consequence was a war in Cilicia by sea and land, which broke out in the following year between the contending powers. Only a few years earlier the same province had been the scene of the so-called Caramenian war in which the united Venetian, Neapolitan and Sclavonic fleets had been engaged. (See CORIALANO CIPPICO, Della guerra dei Veneziani nell' Asia dal 1469—1474. Venezia 1796, p. 54) and we learn incidentally that a certain Leonardo Boldo, Governor of Scutari under Sultan Mahmoud,—as his name would indicate, one of the numerous renegades of Italian birth—played an important part in the negotiations for peace.

Tu mi mandasti. The address tu to a personage so high in office is singular and suggests personal intimacy; Leonardo seems to have been a favourite with the Diodario. Compare lines 54 and 55.

I have endeavoured to show, and I believe that I am also in a position to prove with regard to these texts, that they are draughts of letters actually written by Leonardo; at the same time I must not omit to mention that shortly after I had discovered

these texts in the Codex Atlanticus and published a paper on the subject in the Zeitschrift fur bildende Kunst (Vol. XVI), Prof. Govi put forward this hypothesis to account for their origin:

"Quanto alle notizie sul monte Tauro, sull'Armenia e sull' Asia minore che si contengono negli altri frammenti, esse vennero prese da qualche geografro o viaggiatore contemporaneo. Dall'indice imperfetto che accompagna quei frammenti, si potrebbe dedurre che Leonardo volesse farne un libro, che poi non venne compiuto. A ogni modo, non e possibile di trovare in questi brani nessun indizio di un viaggio di Leonardo in oriente, ne della sua conversione alla religione di Maometto, come qualcuno pretenderebbe. Leonardo amava con passione gli studi geografici, e nel suoi scritti s'incontran spesso itinerart, indicazioni, o descrizioni di luoghi, schizzi di carte e abbozzi topografici di varie regioni, non e quindi strano che egli, abile narratore com'era, si fosse proposto di scrivere una specie di Romanzo in forma epistolare svolgendone Pintreccio nell'Asia Minore, intorno alla quale i libri d'allora, e forse qualche viaggiatore amico suo, gli avevano somministrato alcuni elementi piu o meno fantastici. (See Transunti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei Voi. V Ser. 3).

It is hardly necessary to point out that Prof. Govi omits to name the sources from which Leonardo could be supposed to have drawn his information, and I may leave it to the reader to pronounce judgment on the anomaly which is involved in the hypothesis that we have here a fragment of a Romance, cast in the form of a correspondence. At the same time, I cannot but admit that the solution of the difficulties proposed by Prof. Govi is, under the circumstances, certainly the easiest way of dealing with the question. But we should then be equally justified in supposing some more of Leonardo's letters to be fragments of such romances; particularly those of which the addresses can no longer be named. Still, as regards these drafts of letters to the Diodario, if we accept the Romance theory, as pro- posed by Prof. Govi, we are also compelled to assume that Leonardo purposed from the first to illustrate his tale; for it needs only a glance at the sketches on PI. CXVI to CXIX to perceive that they are connected with the texts; and of course the rest of Leonardo's numerous notes on matters pertaining to the East, the greater part of which are here published for the first time, may also be somehow connected with this strange romance.

7. Citta de Calindra (Chalindra). The position of this city is so exactly determined, between the valley of the Euphrates and the Taurus range that it ought to be possible to identify it. But it can hardly be the same as the sea port of Cilicia with a somewhat similar name Celenderis, Kelandria, Celendria, Kilindria, now the Turkish Gulnar. In two Catalonian Portulans in the Bibliotheque Natio- nale in Paris-one dating from the XV'h century, by Wilhelm von Soler, the other by Olivez de Majorca, in l584-I find this place called Calandra. But Leonardo's Calindra must certainly have lain more to the North West, probably somewhere in Kurdistan. The fact that the geographical position is so care- fully determined by Leonardo seems to prove that it was a place of no great importance and little known. It is singular that the words first written in 1. 8 were divisa dal lago (Lake Van?), altered afterwards to dall'Eitfrates.

Nostri confini, and in 1. 6 proposito nostro. These refer to the frontier and to the affairs of the Mamelook Sultan, Lines 65 and 66 throw some light on the purpose of Leonardo's mission.

8. I corni del gra mote Tauro. Compare the sketches PI. CXVI-CXVIII. So long as it is im- possible to identify the situation of Calindra it is most difficult to decide with any certainty which peak of the Taurus is here meant; and I greatly regret that I had no foreknowledge of this puzzling topographical question when, in 1876, I was pursuing archaeological enquiries in the Provinces of Aleppo and Cilicia, and had to travel for some time in view of the imposing snow-peaks of Bulghar Dagh and Ala Tepessi.

9-10. The opinion here expressed as to the height of the mountain would be unmeaning, unless it had been written before Leonardo moved to Milan, where Monte Rosa is so conspicuous an object in the landscape. 4 ore inanzi seems to mean, four hours before the sun's rays penetrate to the bottom of the valleys.]

to carry into effect with due love and care the task for which you sent me [Footnote: ][6]; and to make a beginning in a place which seemed to me to be most to our purpose, I entered into the city of Calindrafy[7], near to our frontiers. This city is situated at the base of that part of the Taurus mountains which is divided from the Euphrates and looks towards the peaks of the great Mount Taurus [8] to the West [9]. These peaks are of such a height that they seem to touch the sky, and in all the world there is no part of the earth, higher than its summit[10], and the rays of the sun always fall upon it on its East side, four hours before day-time, and being of the whitest stone [Footnote 11:Pietra bianchissima. The Taurus Mountains consist in great part of limestone.] it shines resplendently and fulfils the function to these Armenians which a bright moon-light would in the midst of the darkness; and by its great height it outreaches the utmost level of the clouds by a space of four miles in a straight line. This peak is seen in many places towards the West, illuminated by the sun after its setting the third part of the night. This it is, which with you [Footnote 14: Appresso di voi. Leonardo had at first written noi as though his meaning had,been: This peak appeared to us to be a comet when you and I observed it in North Syria (at Aleppo? at Aintas?). The description of the curious reflection in the evening, resembling the "Alpine-glow" is certainly not an invented fiction, for in the next lines an explanation of the phenomenon is offered, or at least attempted.] we formerly in calm weather had supposed to be a comet, and appears to us in the darkness of night, to change its form, being sometimes divided in two or three parts, and sometimes long and sometimes short. And this is caused by the clouds on the horizon of the sky which interpose between part of this mountain and the sun, and by cutting off some of the solar rays the light on the mountain is intercepted by various intervals of clouds, and therefore varies in the form of its brightness.

THE DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK [Footnote 19: The next 33 lines are evidently the contents of a connected Report or Book, but not of one which he had at hand; more probably, indeed, of one he purposed writing.].

The praise and confession of the faith [Footnote 20: Persuasione di fede, of the Christian or the Mohammedan faith? We must suppose the latter, at the beginning of a document addressed to so high a Mohammedan official. Predica probably stands as an abbreviation for predicazione (lat. praedicatio) in the sense of praise or glorification; very probably it may mean some such initial doxology as we find in Mohammedan works. (Comp. 1. 40.)].

The sudden inundation, to its end.

[23] The destruction of the city.

[24]The death of the people and their despair.

The preacher's search, his release and benevolence [Footnote 28: The phraseology of this is too general for any conjecture as to its meaning to be worth hazarding.]

Description of the cause of this fall of the mountain [Footnote 30: Ruina del monte. Of course by an earthquake. In a catalogue of earthquakes, entitled kechf aussalssaleb an auasf ezzel-zeleh, and written by Djelal eddin].

The mischief it did.

[32] Fall of snow.

The finding of the prophet [33].

His prophesy.

[35] The inundation of the lower portion of Eastern Armenia, the draining of which was effected by the cutting through the Taurus Mountains.

How the new prophet showed [Footnote 40:Nova profeta, 1. 33, profeta. Mohammed. Leonardo here refers to the Koran:

In the name of the most merciful God.—When the earth shall be shaken by an earthquake; and the earth shall cast forth her burdens; and a man shall say, what aileth her? On that day the earth shall declare her tidings, for that thy Lord will inspire her. On that day men shall go forward in distinct classes, that they may behold their works. And whoever shall have wrought good of the weight of an ant, shall behold the same. And whoever shall have wrought evil of the weight of an ant, shall behold the same. (The Koran, translated by G. Sale, Chapter XCIX, p. 452).] that this destruction would happen as he had foretold.

Description of the Taurus Mountains [43] and the river Euphrates.

Why the mountain shines at the top, from half to a third of the night, and looks like a comet to the inhabitants of the West after the sunset, and before day to those of the East.

Why this comet appears of variable forms, so that it is now round and now long, and now again divided into two or three parts, and now in one piece, and when it is to be seen again.

OF THE SHAPE OF THE TAURUS MOUNTAINS [Footnote 53-94: The facsimile of this passage is given on Pl. CXVII.].

I am not to be accused, Oh Devatdar, of idleness, as your chidings seem to hint; but your excessive love for me, which gave rise to the benefits you have conferred on me [Footnote 55] is that which has also compelled me to the utmost painstaking in seeking out and diligently investigating the cause of so great and stupendous an effect. And this could not be done without time; now, in order to satisfy you fully as to the cause of so great an effect, it is requisite that I should explain to you the form of the place, and then I will proceed to the effect, by which I believe you will be amply satisfied.

[Footnote 36: Tagliata di Monte Tauro. The Euphrates flows through the Taurus range near the influx of the Kura Shai; it rushes through a rift in the wildest cliffs from 2000 to 3000 feet high and runs on for 90 miles in 300 falls or rapids till it reaches Telek, near which at a spot called Gleikash, or the Hart's leap, it measures only 35 paces across. Compare the map on Pl. CXIX and the explanation for it on p. 391.]

[Footnote 54: The foregoing sketch of a letter, lines 5. 18, appears to have remained a fragment when Leonardo received pressing orders which caused him to write immediately and fully on the subject mentioned in line 43.]

[Footnote 59: This passage was evidently intended as an improvement on that immediately preceding it. The purport of both is essentially the same, but the first is pitched in a key of ill-disguised annoyance which is absent from the second. I do not see how these two versions can be reconciled with the romance-theory held by Prof. Govi.] Do not be aggrieved, O Devatdar, by my delay in responding to your pressing request, for those things which you require of me are of such a nature that they cannot be well expressed without some lapse of time; particularly because, in order to explain the cause of so great an effect, it is necessary to describe with accuracy the nature of the place; and by this means I can afterwards easily satisfy your above-mentioned request. [Footnote 62: This passage was evidently intended as an improvement on that immediately preceding it. The purport of both is essentially the same, but the first is pitched in a key of ill-disguised annoyance which is absent from the second. I do not see how these two versions can be reconciled with the romance-theory held by Prof. Govi.]

I will pass over any description of the form of Asia Minor, or as to what seas or lands form the limits of its outline and extent, because I know that by your own diligence and carefulness in your studies you have not remained in ignorance of these matters [65]; and I will go on to describe the true form of the Taurus Mountain which is the cause of this stupendous and harmful marvel, and which will serve to advance us in our purpose [66]. This Taurus is that mountain which, with many others is said to be the ridge of Mount Caucasus; but wishing to be very clear about it, I desired to speak to some of the inhabitants of the shores of the Caspian sea, who give evidence that this must be the true Caucasus, and that though their mountains bear the same name, yet these are higher; and to confirm this in the Scythian tongue Caucasus means a very high [Footnote 68: Caucasus; Herodot Kaoxaais; Armen. Kaukaz.] peak, and in fact we have no information of there being, in the East or in the West, any mountain so high. And the proof of this is that the inhabitants of the countries to the West see the rays of the sun illuminating a great part of its summit for as much as a quarter of the longest night. And in the same way, in those countries which lie to the East.


[Footnote 73: The statements are of course founded on those of the 'inhabitants' spoken of in 1. 67.] The shadow of this ridge of the Taurus is of such a height that when, in the middle of June, the Sun is at its meridian, its shadow extends as far as the borders of Sarmatia, twelve days off; and in the middle of December it extends as far as the Hyperborean mountains, which are at a month's journey to the North [75]. And the side which faces the wind is always free from clouds and mists, because the wind which is parted in beating on the rock, closes again on the further side of that rock, and in its motion carries with it the clouds from all quarters and leaves them where it strikes. And it is always full of thunderbolts from the great quantity of clouds which accumulate there, whence the rock is all riven and full of huge debris [Footnote 77: Sudden storms are equally common on the heights of Ararat. It is hardly necessary to observe that Ararat cannot be meant here. Its summit is formed like the crater of Vesuvius. The peaks sketched on Pl. CXVI-CXVIII are probably views of the same mountain, taken from different sides. Near the solitary peak, Pl. CXVIII these three names are written goba, arnigasar, caruda, names most likely of different peaks. Pl. CXVI and CXVII are in the original on a single sheet folded down the middle, 30 centimetres high and 43 1/2 wide. On the reverse of one half of the sheet are notes on peso and bilancia (weight and balance), on the other are the 'prophecies' printed under Nos. 1293 and 1294. It is evident from the arrangement that these were written subsequently, on the space which had been left blank. These pages are facsimiled on Pl. CXVIII. In Pl. CXVI-CXVIII the size is smaller than in the original; the map of Armenia, Pl. CXVIII, is on Pl. CXIX slightly enlarged. On this map we find the following names, beginning from the right hand at the top: pariardes mo (for Paryadres Mons, Arm. Parchar, now Barchal or Kolai Dagh; Trebizond is on its slope).

Aquilone —North, Antitaurus Antitaurus psis mo (probably meant for Thospitis = Lake Van, Arm. Dgov Vanai, Tospoi, and the Mountain range to the South); Gordis mo (Mountains of Gordyaea), the birth place of the Tigris; Oriente —East; Tigris, and then, to the left, Eufrates. Then, above to the left Argeo mo (now Erdshigas, an extinct volcano, 12000 feet high); Celeno mo (no doubt Sultan Dagh in Pisidia). Celeno is the Greek town of KeAouvat— see Arian I, 29, I—now the ruins of Dineir); oriente —East; africo libezco (for libeccio—South West). In the middle of the Euphrates river on this small map we see a shaded portion surrounded by mountains, perhaps to indicate the inundation mentioned in l. 35. The affluent to the Euphrates shown as coming with many windings from the high land of 'Argeo' on the West, is the Tochma Su, which joins the main river at Malatie. I have not been able to discover any map of Armenia of the XVth or XVIth century in which the course of the Euphrates is laid down with any thing like the correctness displayed in this sketch. The best I have seen is the Catalonian Portulan of Olivez de Majorca, executed in 1584, and it is far behind Leonardo's.]. This mountain, at its base, is inhabited by a very rich population and is full of most beautiful springs and rivers, and is fertile and abounding in all good produce, particularly in those parts which face to the South. But after mounting about three miles we begin to find forests of great fir trees, and beech and other similar trees; after this, for a space of three more miles, there are meadows and vast pastures; and all the rest, as far as the beginning of the Taurus, is eternal snows which never disappear at any time, and extend to a height of about fourteen miles in all. From this beginning of the Taurus up to the height of a mile the clouds never pass away; thus we have fifteen miles, that is, a height of about five miles in a straight line; and the summit of the peaks of the Taurus are as much, or about that. There, half way up, we begin to find a scorching air and never feel a breath of wind; but nothing can live long there; there nothing is brought forth save a few birds of prey which breed in the high fissures of Taurus and descend below the clouds to seek their prey. Above the wooded hills all is bare rock, that is, from the clouds upwards; and the rock is the purest white. And it is impossible to walk to the high summit on account of the rough and perilous ascent.


[Footnote: 1337. On comparing this commencement of a letter l. 1-2 with that in l. 3 and 4 of No. 1336 it is quite evident that both refer to the same event. (Compare also No. 1337 l. 10-l2 and 17 with No. 1336 l. 23, 24 and 32.) But the text No. 1336, including the fragment l. 3-4, was obviously written later than the draft here reproduced. The Diodario is not directly addressed—the person addressed indeed is not known—and it seems to me highly probable that it was written to some other patron and friend whose name and position are not mentioned.]

Having often made you, by my letters, acquainted with the things which have happened, I think I ought not to be silent as to the events of the last few days, which—[2]...

Having several times—

Having many times rejoiced with you by letters over your prosperous fortunes, I know now that, as a friend you will be sad with me over the miserable state in which I find myself; and this is, that during the last few days I have been in so much trouble, fear, peril and loss, besides the miseries of the people here, that we have been envious of the dead; and certainly I do not believe that since the elements by their separation reduced the vast chaos to order, they have ever combined their force and fury to do so much mischief to man. As far as regards us here, what we have seen and gone through is such that I could not imagine that things could ever rise to such an amount of mischief, as we experienced in the space of ten hours. In the first place we were assailed and attacked by the violence and fury of the winds [10]; to this was added the falling of great mountains of snow which filled up all this valley, thus destroying a great part of our city [Footnote 11: Della nostra citta (Leonardo first wrote di questa citta). From this we may infer that he had at some time lived in the place in question wherever it might be.]. And not content with this the tempest sent a sudden flood of water to submerge all the low part of this city [12]; added to which there came a sudden rain, or rather a ruinous torrent and flood of water, sand, mud, and stones, entangled with roots, and stems and fragments of various trees; and every kind of thing flying through the air fell upon us; finally a great fire broke out, not brought by the wind, but carried as it would seem, by ten thousand devils, which completely burnt up all this neighbourhood and it has not yet ceased. And those few who remain unhurt are in such dejection and such terror that they hardly have courage to speak to each other, as if they were stunned. Having abandoned all our business, we stay here together in the ruins of some churches, men and women mingled together, small and great [Footnote 17: Certe ruine di chiese. Either of Armenian churches or of Mosques, which it was not unusual to speak of as churches.

Maschi e femmini insieme unite, implies an infringement of the usually strict rule of the separation of the sexes.], just like herds of goats. The neighbours out of pity succoured us with victuals, and they had previously been our enemies. And if

[Footnote 18: I vicini, nostri nimici. The town must then have stood quite close to the frontier of the country. Compare 1336. L. 7. vicini ai nostri confini. Dr. M. JORDAN has already published lines 4-13 (see Das Malerbuch, Leipzig, 1873, p. 90:—his reading differs from mine) under the title of "Description of a landscape near Lake Como". We do in fact find, among other loose sheets in the Codex Atlanticus, certain texts referring to valleys of the Alps (see Nos. 1030, 1031 and note p. 237) and in the arrangement of the loose sheets, of which the Codex Atlanticus has been formed, these happen to be placed close to this text. The compiler stuck both on the same folio sheet; and if this is not the reason for Dr. JORDAN'S choosing such a title (Description &c.) I cannot imagine what it can have been. It is, at any rate, a merely hypothetical statement. The designation of the population of the country round a city as "the enemy" (nemici) is hardly appropriate to Italy in the time of Leonardo.]

it had not been for certain people who succoured us with victuals, all would have died of hunger. Now you see the state we are in. And all these evils are as nothing compared with those which are promised to us shortly.

I know that as a friend you will grieve for my misfortunes, as I, in former letters have shown my joy at your prosperity ...

Notes about events observed abroad (1338-1339).



I have seen motions of the air so furious that they have carried, mixed up in their course, the largest trees of the forest and whole roofs of great palaces, and I have seen the same fury bore a hole with a whirling movement digging out a gravel pit, and carrying gravel, sand and water more than half a mile through the air.

[Footnote: The first sixteen lines of this passage which treat of the subject as indicated on the title line have no place in this connexion and have been omitted.]

[Footnote 2: Ho veduto movimenti &c. Nothing of the kind happened in Italy during Leonardo's lifetime, and it is therefore extremely probable that this refers to the natural phenomena which are so fully described in the foregoing passage. (Compare too, No. 1021.) There can be no doubt that the descriptions of the Deluge in the Libro di Pittura (Vol. I, No. 607-611), and that of the fall of a mountain No. 610, l. 17-30 were written from the vivid impressions derived from personal experience. Compare also Pl. XXXIV-XL.]


[Footnote: It may be inferred from the character of the writing, which is in the style of the note in facsimile Vol. I, p. 297, that this passage was written between 1470 and 1480. As the figure 6 at the end of the text indicates, it was continued on another page, but I have searched in vain for it. The reverse of this leaf is coloured red for drawing in silver point, but has not been used for that purpose but for writing on, and at about the same date. The passages are given as Nos. 1217, 1218, 1219, 1162 and No. 994 (see note page 218). The text given above is obviously not a fragment of a letter, but a record of some personal experience. No. 1379 also seems to refer to Leonardo's journeys in Southern Italy.]

Like a whirling wind which rushes down a sandy and hollow valley, and which, in its hasty course, drives to its centre every thing that opposes its furious course ...

No otherwise does the Northern blast whirl round in its tempestuous progress ...

Nor does the tempestuous sea bellow so loud, when the Northern blast dashes it, with its foaming waves between Scylla and Charybdis; nor Stromboli, nor Mount Etna, when their sulphurous flames, having been forcibly confined, rend, and burst open the mountain, fulminating stones and earth through the air together with the flames they vomit.

Nor when the inflamed caverns of Mount Etna [Footnote 13: Mongibello is a name commonly given in Sicily to Mount Etna (from Djebel, Arab.=mountain). Fr. FERRARA, Descrizione dell' Etna con la storia delle eruzioni (Palermo, 1818, p. 88) tells us, on the authority of the Cronaca del Monastero Benedettino di Licordia of an eruption of the Volcano with a great flow of lava on Sept. 21, 1447. The next records of the mountain are from the years 1533 and 1536. A. Percy neither does mention any eruptions of Etna during the years to which this note must probably refer Memoire des tremblements de terre de la peninsule italique, Vol. XXII des Memoires couronnees et Memoires des savants etrangers. Academie Royal de Belgique).

A literal interpretation of the passage would not, however, indicate an allusion to any great eruption; particularly in the connection with Stromboli, where the periodical outbreaks in very short intervals are very striking to any observer, especially at night time, when passing the island on the way from Naples to Messina.], rejecting the ill-restained element vomit it forth, back to its own region, driving furiously before it every obstacle that comes in the way of its impetuous rage ...

Unable to resist my eager desire and wanting to see the great ... of the various and strange shapes made by formative nature, and having wandered some distance among gloomy rocks, I came to the entrance of a great cavern, in front of which I stood some time, astonished and unaware of such a thing. Bending my back into an arch I rested my left hand on my knee and held my right hand over my down-cast and contracted eye brows: often bending first one way and then the other, to see whether I could discover anything inside, and this being forbidden by the deep darkness within, and after having remained there some time, two contrary emotions arose in me, fear and desire—fear of the threatening dark cavern, desire to see whether there were any marvellous thing within it ...

Drafts of Letters to Lodovico il Moro (1340-1345).


[Footnote: The numerous corrections, the alterations in the figures (l. 18) and the absence of any signature prove that this is merely the rough draft of a letter to Lodovico il Moro. It is one of the very few manuscripts which are written from left to right—see the facsimile of the beginning as here reproduced. This is probably the final sketch of a document the clean of which copy was written in the usual manner. Leonardo no doubt very rarely wrote so, and this is probably the reason of the conspicuous dissimilarity in the handwriting, when he did. (Compare Pl. XXXVIII.) It is noteworthy too that here the orthography and abbreviations are also exceptional. But such superficial peculiarities are not enough to stamp the document as altogether spurious. It is neither a forgery nor the production of any artist but Leonardo himself. As to this point the contents leave us no doubt as to its authenticity, particularly l. 32 (see No. 719, where this passage is repeated). But whether the fragment, as we here see it, was written from Leonardo's dictation—a theory favoured by the orthography, the erasures and corrections—or whether it may be a copy made for or by Melzi or Mazenta is comparatively unimportant. There are in the Codex Atlanticus a few other documents not written by Leonardo himself, but the notes in his own hand found on the reverse pages of these leaves amply prove that they were certainly in Leonardo's possession. This mark of ownership is wanting to the text in question, but the compilers of the Codex Atlanticus, at any rate, accepted it as a genuine document.

With regard to the probable date of this projected letter see Vol. II, p. 3.]

Most illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different to those in common use: I shall endeavour, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency showing your Lordship my secrets, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments as well as all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

1) I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2) I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3) Item. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, &c.

4) Again I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these causing great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

9) [8] And when the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offence and defence; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

5) Item. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise to reach a designated [spot], even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

6) Item. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

7) Item. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

8) Where the operation of bombardment should fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offence and defence.

10) In time of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

Item: I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, and also in painting whatever may be done, and as well as any other, be he whom he may.

[32] Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any one of the above-named things seem to any one to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency—to whom I commend myself with the utmost humility &c.


To my illustrious Lord, Lodovico, Duke of Bari, Leonardo da Vinci of Florence— Leonardo.

[Footnote: Evidently a note of the superscription of a letter to the Duke, and written, like the foregoing from left to right. The manuscript containing it is of the year 1493. Lodovico was not proclaimed and styled Duke of Milan till September 1494. The Dukedom of Bari belonged to the Sforza family till 1499.]


You would like to see a model which will prove useful to you and to me, also it will be of use to those who will be the cause of our usefulness.

[Footnote: 1342. 1343. These two notes occur in the same not very voluminous MS. as the former one and it is possible that they are fragments of the same letter. By the Modello, the equestrian statue is probably meant, particularly as the model of this statue was publicly exhibited in this very year, 1493, on tne occasion of the marriage of the Emperor Maximilian with Bianca Maria Sforza.]


There are here, my Lord, many gentlemen who will undertake this expense among them, if they are allowed to enjoy the use of admission to the waters, the mills, and the passage of vessels and when it is sold to them the price will be repaid to them by the canal of Martesana.


I am greatly vexed to be in necessity, but I still more regret that this should be the cause of the hindrance of my wish which is always disposed to obey your Excellency.

Perhaps your Excellency did not give further orders to Messer Gualtieri, believing that I had money enough.

I am greatly annoyed that you should have found me in necessity, and that my having to earn my living should have hindered me ...

[12] It vexes me greatly that having to earn my living has forced me to interrupt the work and to attend to small matters, instead of following up the work which your Lordship entrusted to me. But I hope in a short time to have earned so much that I may carry it out quietly to the satisfaction of your Excellency, to whom I commend myself; and if your Lordship thought that I had money, your Lordship was deceived. I had to feed 6 men for 56 months, and have had 50 ducats.


And if any other comission is given me by any ... of the reward of my service. Because I am not [able] to be ... things assigned because meanwhile they have ... to them ... ... which they well may settle rather than I ... not my art which I wish to change and ... given some clothing if I dare a sum ...

My Lord, I knowing your Excellency's mind to be occupied ... to remind your Lordship of my small matters and the arts put to silence that my silence might be the cause of making your Lordship scorn ... my life in your service. I hold myself ever in readiness to obey ...

[Footnote 11: See No. 723, where this passage is repeated.]

Of the horse I will say nothing because I know the times [are bad] to your Lordship how I had still to receive two years' salary of the ... with the two skilled workmen who are constantly in my pay and at my cost that at last I found myself advanced the said sum about 15 lire ... works of fame by which I could show to those who shall see it that I have been everywhere, but I do not know where I could bestow my work [more] ...

[Footnote 17: See No. 1344 l. 12.] I, having been working to gain my living ...

I not having been informed what it is, I find myself ...

[Footnote 19: In April, 1498, Leonardo was engaged in painting the Saletta Nigra of the Castello at Milan. (See G. MONGERI, l'Arte in Milano, 1872, p. 417.)]

remember the commission to paint the rooms ...

I conveyed to your Lordship only requesting you ...

[Footnote: The paper on which this is written is torn down the middle; about half of each line remains.]

Draft of letter to be sent to Piacenza (1346. 1347).

[Footnote: 1346. 1347. Piacenza belonged to Milan. The Lord spoken of in this letter, is no doubt Lodovico il Moro. One may infer from the concluding sentence (No. 1346, l. 33. 34 and No. 1347), that Leonardo, who no doubt compiled this letter, did not forward it to Piacenza himself, but gave it to some influential patron, under whose name and signature a copy of it was sent to the Commission.]


Magnificent Commissioners of Buildings I, understanding that your Magnificencies have made up your minds to make certain great works in bronze, will remind you of certain things: first that you should not be so hasty or so quick to give the commission, lest by this haste it should become impossible to select a good model and a good master; and some man of small merit may be chosen, who by his insufficiency may cause you to be abused by your descendants, judging that this age was but ill supplied with men of good counsel and with good masters; seeing that other cities, and chiefly the city of the Florentines, has been as it were in these very days, endowed with beautiful and grand works in bronze; among which are the doors of their Baptistery. And this town of Florence, like Piacenza, is a place of intercourse, through which many foreigners pass; who, seeing that the works are fine and of good quality, carry away a good impression, and will say that that city is well filled with worthy inhabitants, seeing the works which bear witness to their opinion; and on the other hand, I say seeing so much metal expended and so badly wrought, it were less shame to the city if the doors had been of plain wood; because, the material, costing so little, would not seem to merit any great outlay of skill...

Now the principal parts which are sought for in cities are their cathedrals, and of these the first things which strike the eye are the doors, by which one passes into these churches.

Beware, gentlemen of the Commission, lest too great speed in your determination, and so much haste to expedite the entrusting of so great a work as that which I hear you have ordered, be the cause that that which was intended for the honour of God and of men should be turned to great dishonour of your judgments, and of your city, which, being a place of mark, is the resort and gathering-place of innumerable foreigners. And this dishonour would result if by your lack of diligence you were to put your trust in some vaunter, who by his tricks or by favour shown to him here should obtain such work from you, by which lasting and very great shame would result to him and to you. Thus I cannot help being angry when I consider what men those are who have conferred with you as wishing to undertake this great work without thinking of their sufficiency for it, not to say more. This one is a potter, that one a maker of cuirasses, this one is a bell-founder, another a bell ringer, and one is even a bombardier; and among them one in his Lordship's service, who boasted that he was the gossip of Messer Ambrosio Ferrere [Footnote 26: Messer Ambrogio Ferrere was Farmer of the Customs under the Duke. Piacenza at that time belonged to Milan.], who has some power and who has made him some promises; and if this were not enough he would mount on horseback, and go to his Lord and obtain such letters that you could never refuse [to give] him the work. But consider where masters of real talent and fit for such work are brought when they have to compete with such men as these. Open your eyes and look carefully lest your money should be spent in buying your own disgrace. I can declare to you that from that place you will procure none but average works of inferior and coarse masters. There is no capable man,—[33] and you may believe me,—except Leonardo the Florentine, who is making the equestrian statue in bronze of the Duke Francesco and who has no need to bring himself into notice, because he has work for all his life time; and I doubt, whether being so great a work, he will ever finish it [34].

The miserable painstakers ... with what hope may they expect a reward of their merit?


There is one whom his Lordship invited from Florence to do this work and who is a worthy master, but with so very much business he will never finish it; and you may imagine that a difference there is to be seen between a beautiful object and an ugly one. Quote Pliny.

Letter to the Cardinal Ippolito d' Este.


[Footnote: This letter addressed to the Cardinal Ippolito d'Este is here given from Marchese G. CAMPORI'S publication: Nuovi documenti per la Vita di Leonardo da Vinci. Atti e Memorie delle R. R. Deputazioni di Storia patria per la provincie modenesi e parmenesi, Vol. III. It is the only text throughout this work which I have not myself examined and copied from the original. The learned discoverer of this letter—the only letter from Leonardo hitherto known as having been sent—adds these interesting remarks: Codesto Cardinale nato ad Ercole I. nel 1470, arcivescovo di Strigonia a sette anni, poi d'Agra, aveva conseguito nel 1497 la pingue ed ambita cattedra di Milano, la dove avra conosciuto il Vinci, sebbene il poco amore ch'ei professava alle arti lasci credere che le proteste di servitu di Leonardo piu che a gratitudine per favori ricevuti e per opere a lui allogate, accennino a speranza per un favore che si aspetta. Notabile e ancora in questo prezioso documento la ripetuta signatura del grande artista 'che si scrive Vincio e Vincius, non da Vinci come si tiene comunemente, sebbene l'una e l'altra possano valere a significare cosi il casato come il paese; restando a sapere se il nome del paese di Vinci fosse assunto a cognome della famiglia di Leonardo nel qual supposto piu propriamento avrebbe a chiamarsi Leonardo Vinci, o Vincio (latinamente Vincius) com'egli stesso amo segnarsi in questa lettera, e come scrissero parecchi contenporanei di lui, il Casio, il Cesariano, Geoffrey Tory, il Gaurico, il Bandello, Raffaelle Maffei, il Paciolo. Per ultimo non lascero d'avvertire come la lettera del Vinci e assai ben conservata, di nitida e larga scrittura in forma pienemente corrispondente a quella dei suoi manoscritti, vergata all'uso comune da sinistra a destra, anziche contrariamente come fu suo costume; ma indubbiamente autentica e fornita della menzione e del suggello che fresca ancora conserva l'impronta di una testa di profilo da un picciolo antico cammeo. (Compare No. 1368, note.)]

Most Illustrious and most Reverend Lord. The Lord Ippolito, Cardinal of Este at Ferrare.

Most Illustrious and most Reverend Lord.

I arrived from Milan but a few days since and finding that my elder brother refuses to

carry into effect a will, made three years ago when my father died—as also, and no less, because I would not fail in a matter I esteem most important—I cannot forbear to crave of your most Reverend Highness a letter of recommendation and favour to Ser Raphaello Hieronymo, at present one of the illustrious members of the Signoria before whom my cause is being argued; and more particularly it has been laid by his Excellency the Gonfaloniere into the hands of the said Ser Raphaello, that his Worship may have to decide and end it before the festival of All Saints. And therefore, my Lord, I entreat you, as urgently as I know how and am able, that your Highness will write a letter to the said Ser Raphaello in that admirable and pressing manner which your Highness can use, recommending to him Leonardo Vincio, your most humble servant as I am, and shall always be; requesting him and pressing him not only to do me justice but to do so with despatch; and I have not the least doubt, from many things that I hear, that Ser Raphaello, being most affectionately devoted to your Highness, the matter will issue ad votum. And this I shall attribute to your most Reverend Highness' letter, to whom I once more humbly commend myself. Et bene valeat.

Florence XVIIIa 7bris 1507. E. V. R. D.

your humble servant Leonardus Vincius, pictor.

Draft of Letter to the Governor of Milan.


I am afraid lest the small return I have made for the great benefits, I have received from your Excellency, have not made you somewhat angry with me, and that this is why to so many letters which I have written to your Lordship I have never had an answer. I now send Salai to explain to your Lordship that I am almost at an end of the litigation I had with my brother; that I hope to find myself with you this Easter, and to carry with me two pictures of two Madonnas of different sizes. These were done for our most Christian King, or for whomsoever your Lordship may please. I should be very glad to know on my return thence where I may have to reside, for I would not give any more trouble to your Lordship. Also, as I have worked for the most Christian King, whether my salary is to continue or not. I wrote to the President as to that water which the king granted me, and which I was not put in possession of because at that time there was a dearth in the canal by reason of the great droughts and because [Footnote:Compare Nos. 1009 and 1010. Leonardo has noted the payment of the pension from the king in 1505.] its outlets were not regulated; but he certainly promised me that when this was done I should be put in possession. Thus I pray your Lordship that you will take so much trouble, now that these outlets are regulated, as to remind the President of my matter; that is, to give me possession of this water, because on my return I hope to make there instruments and other things which will greatly please our most Christian King. Nothing else occurs to me. I am always yours to command. [Footnote:1349. Charles d'Amboise, Marechal de Chaumont, was Governor of Milan under Louis XII. Leonardo was in personal communication with him so early as in 1503. He was absent from Milan in the autumn of 1506 and from October l5l0—when he besieged Pope Julius II. in Bologna—till his death, which took place at Correggio, February 11, 1511. Francesco Vinci, Leonardo's uncle, died—as Amoretti tells us—in the winter of l5l0-11 (or according to Uzielli in 1506?), and Leonardo remained in Florence for business connected with his estate. The letter written with reference to this affair, No. 1348, is undoubtedly earlier than the letters Nos. 1349 and 1350. Amoretti tells us, Memorie Storiche, ch. II, that the following note existed on the same leaf in MS. C. A. I have not however succeeded in finding it. The passage runs thus: Jo sono quasi al fine del mio letizio che io o con mie fratetgli ... Ancora ricordo a V. Excia la facenda che o cum Ser Juliana mio Fratello capo delli altri fratelli ricordandoli come se offerse di conciar le cose nostre fra noi fratelli del comune della eredita de mio Zio, e quelli costringa alla expeditione, quale conteneva la lettera che lui me mando.]

Drafts of Letters to the Superintendent of Canals and to Fr. Melzi.


Magnificent President, I am sending thither Salai, my pupil, who is the bearer of this, and from him you will hear by word of mouth the cause of my...

Magnificent President, I...

Magnificent President:—Having ofttimes remembered the proposals made many times to me by your Excellency, I take the liberty of writing to remind your Lordship of the promise made to me at my last departure, that is the possession of the twelve inches of water granted to me by the most Christian King. Your Lordship knows that I did not enter into possession, because at that time when it was given to me there was a dearth of water in the canal, as well by reason of the great drought as also because the outlets were not regulated; but your Excellency promised me that as soon as this was done, I should have my rights. Afterwards hearing that the canal was complete I wrote several times to your Lordship and to Messer Girolamo da Cusano,who has in his keeping the deed of this gift; and so also I wrote to Corigero and never had a reply. I now send thither Salai, my pupil, the bearer of this, to whom your Lordship may tell by word of mouth all that happened in the matter about which I petition your Excellency. I expect to go thither this Easter since I am nearly at the end of my lawsuit, and I will take with me two pictures of our Lady which I have begun, and at the present time have brought them on to a very good end; nothing else occurs to me.

My Lord the love which your Excellency has always shown me and the benefits that I have constantly received from you I have hitherto...

I am fearful lest the small return I have made for the great benefits I have received from your Excellency may not have made you somewhat annoyed with me. And this is why, to many letters which I have written to your Excellency I have never had an answer. I now send to you Salai to explain to your Excellency that I am almost at the end of my litigation with my brothers, and that I hope to be with you this Easter and carry with me two pictures on which are two Madonnas of different sizes which I began for the most Christian King, or for whomsoever you please. I should be very glad to know where, on my return from this place, I shall have to reside, because I do not wish to give more trouble to your Lordship; and then, having worked for the most Christian King, whether my salary is to be continued or not. I write to the President as to the water that the king granted me of which I had not been put in possession by reason of the dearth in the canal, caused by the great drought and because its outlets were not regulated; but he promised me certainly that as soon as the regulation was made, I should be put in possession of it; I therefore pray you that, if you should meet the said President, you would be good enough, now that the outlets are regulated, to remind the said President to cause me to be put in possession of that water, since I understand it is in great measure in his power. Nothing else occurs to me; always yours to command.

Good day to you Messer Francesco. Why, in God's name, of all the letters I have written to you, have you never answered one. Now wait till I come, by God, and I shall make you write so much that perhaps you will become sick of it.

Dear Messer Francesco. I am sending thither Salai to learn from His Magnificence the President to what end the regulation of the water has come since, at my departure this regulation of the outlets of the canal had been ordered, because His Magnificence the President promised me that as soon as this was done I should be satisfied. It is now some time since I heard that the canal was in order, as also its outlets, and I immediately wrote to the President and to you, and then I repeated it, and never had an answer. So you will have the goodness to answer me as to that which happened, and as I am not to hurry the matter, would you take the trouble, for the love of me, to urge the President a little, and also Messer Girolamo Cusano, to whom you will commend me and offer my duty to his Magnificence.

[Footnote: 1350. 28-36. Draft of a letter to Francesco Melzi, born l493—a youth therefore of about 17 in 1510. Leonardo addresses his young friend as "Messer", as being the son of a noble house. Melzi practised art under Leonardo as a dilettante and not as a pupil, like Cesare da Sesto and others (See LERMOLIEFF, Die Galerien &c., p. 476).]

Drafts of a letter to Giuliano de' Medici (1351-1352).


[Most illustrious Lord. I greatly rejoice most Illustrious Lord at your...]

I was so greatly rejoiced, most illustrious Lord, by the desired restoration of your health, that it almost had the effect that [my own health recovered]—[I have got through my illness]—my own illness left me— —of your Excellency's almost restored health. But I am extremely vexed that I have not been able completely to satisfy the wishes of your Excellency, by reason of the wickedness of that deceiver, for whom I left nothing undone which could be done for him by me and by which I might be of use to him; and in the first place his allowances were paid to him before the time, which I believe he would willingly deny, if I had not the writing signed by myself and the interpreter. And I, seeing that he did not work for me unless he had no work to do for others, which he was very careful in solliciting, invited him to dine with me, and to work afterwards near me, because, besides the saving of expense, he

[Footnote 1351. 1353: It is clear from the contents of this notes that they refer to Leonardo's residence in Rome in 1513-1515. Nor can there be any doubt that they were addressed to Leonardo's patron at the time: Giuliano de' Medici, third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and brother of Pope Leo X (born 1478). In 1512 he became the head of the Florentine Republic. The Pope invited him to Rome, where he settled; in 1513 he was named patrician with much splendid ceremonial. The medal struck in honour of the event bears the words MAG. IVLIAN. MEDICES. Leonardo too uses the style "Magnifico", in his letter. Compare also No. 1377.

GlNO CAPPONI (Storia della Repubblica di Firenze, Vol. III, p. 139) thus describes the character of Giuliano de' Medici, who died in 1516: Era il migliore della famiglia, di vita placida, grande spenditore, tenendo intorno a se uomini ingegnosi, ed ogni nuova cosa voleva provare.

See too GREGOROVIUS, Geschichte der Stadi Rom, VIII (book XIV. III, 2): Die Luftschlosser furstlicher Grosse, wozu ihn der Papst hatte erheben wollen zerfielen. Julian war der edelste aller damaligen Medici, ein Mensch von innerlicher Richtung, unbefriedigt durch das Leben, mitten im Sonnenglanz der Herrlichkeit Leo's X. eine dunkle Gestalt die wie ein Schatten voruberzog. Giuliano lived in the Vatican, and it may be safely inferred from No. 1352 l. 2, and No. 1353 l. 4, that Leonardo did the same.

From the following unpublished notice in the Vatican archives, which M. Eug. Muntz, librarian of the Ecole des Beaux arts, Paris, has done me the favour to communicate to me, we get a more accurate view of Leonardo's relation to the often named GIORGIO TEDESCO:

_Nota delle provisione_ (sic) _a da pagare per me in nome del nostro ill. S. Bernardo Bini e chompa di Roma, e prima della illma sua chonsorte ogni mese d. 800.

A Ldo da Vinci per sua provisione d. XXXIII, e piu d. VII al detto per la provisione di Giorgio tedescho, che sono in tutto d. 40.

From this we learn, that seven ducats formed the German's monthly wages, but according to No. 1353 l. 7 he pretended that eight ducats had been agreed upon.]

would acquire the Italian language. He always promised, but would never do so. And this I did also, because that Giovanni, the German who makes the mirrors, was there always in the workshop, and wanted to see and to know all that was being done there and made it known outside ... strongly criticising it; and because he dined with those of the Pope's guard, and then they went out with guns killing birds among the ruins; and this went on from after dinner till the evening; and when I sent Lorenzo to urge him to work he said that he would not have so many masters over him, and that his work was for your Excellency's Wardrobe; and thus two months passed and so it went on; and one day finding Gian Niccolo of the Wardrobe and asking whether the German had finished the work for your Magnificence, he told me this was not true, but only that he had given him two guns to clean. Afterwards, when I had urged him farther, be left the workshop and began to work in his room, and lost much time in making another pair of pincers and files and other tools with screws; and there he worked at mills for twisting silk which he hid when any one of my people went in, and with a thousand oaths and mutterings, so that none of them would go there any more.

I was so greatly rejoiced, most Illustrious Lord, by the desired restoration of your health, that my own illness almost left me. But I am greatly vexed at not having been able to completely satisfy your Excellency's wishes by reason of the wickedness of that German deceiver, for whom I left nothing undone by which I could have hope to please him; and secondly I invited him to lodge and board with me, by which means I should constantly see the work he was doing and with greater ease correct his errors while, besides this, he would learn the Italian tongue, by means of which be could with more ease talk without an interpreter; his moneys were always given him in advance of the time when due. Afterwards he wanted to have the models finished in wood, just as they were to be in iron, and wished to carry them away to his own country. But this I refused him, telling him that I would give him, in drawing, the breadth, length, height and form of what he had to do; and so we remained in ill-will.

The next thing was that he made himself another workshop and pincers and tools in his room where he slept, and there he worked for others; afterwards he went to dine with the Swiss of the guard, where there are idle fellows, in which he beat them all; and most times they went two or three together with guns, to shoot birds among the ruins, and this went on till evening.

At last I found how this master Giovanni the mirror-maker was he who had done it all, for two reasons; the first because he had said that my coming here had deprived him of the countenance and favour of your Lordship which always... The other is that he said that his iron-workers' rooms suited him for working at his mirrors, and of this he gave proof; for besides making him my enemy, he made him sell all he had and leave his workshop to him, where he works with a number of workmen making numerous mirrors to send to the fairs.


I was so greatly rejoiced, most Illustrious Lord, by the wished for recovery of your health, that my own ills have almost left me; and I say God be praised for it. But it vexes me greatly that I have not been able completely to satisfy your Excellency's wishes by reason of the wickedness of that German deceiver, for whom I left nothing undone by which I could hope to please him; and secondly I invited him to lodge and board with me, by which means I should see constantly the work he was doing, for which purpose I would have a table fixed at the foot of one of these windows, where he could work with the file and finish the things made below; and so I should constantly see the work he might do, and it could be corrected with greater ease.

Draft of letter written at Rome.


This other hindered me in anatomy, blaming it before the Pope; and likewise at the hospital; and he has filled [4] this whole Belvedere with workshops for mirrors; and he did the same thing in Maestro Giorgio's room. He said that he had been promised [7] eight ducats every month, beginning with the first day, when he set out, or at latest when he spoke with you; and that you agreed.

Seeing that he seldom stayed in the workshop, and that he ate a great deal, I sent him word that, if he liked I could deal with him separately for each thing that he might make, and would give him what we might agree to be a fair valuation. He took counsel with his neighbour and gave up his room, selling every thing, and went to find...

Miscellaneous Records (1354. 1355).


[Footnote: A puzzling passage, meant, as it would seem, for a jest. Compare the description of Giants in Dante, Inf. XXI and XXII. Perhaps Leonardo had the Giant Antaeus in his mind. Of him the myth relates that he was a son of Ge, that he fed on lions; that he hunted in Libya and killed the inhabitants. He enjoyed the peculiarity of renewing his strength whenever he fell and came in contact with his mother earth; but that Hercules lifted him up and so conquered and strangled him. Lucan gives a full account of the struggle. Pharsalia IV, 617. The reading of this passage, which is very indistinctly written, is in many places doubtful.]

Dear Benedetto de' Pertarti. When the proud giant fell because of the bloody and miry state of the ground it was as though a mountain had fallen so that the country shook as with an earthquake, and terror fell on Pluto in hell. From the violence of the shock he lay as stunned on the level ground. Suddenly the people, seeing him as one killed by a thunderbolt, turned back; like ants running wildly over the body of the fallen oak, so these rushing over his ample limbs.......... them with frequent wounds; by which, the giant being roused and feeling himself almost covered by the multitude, he suddenly perceives the smarting of the stabs, and sent forth a roar which sounded like a terrific clap of thunder; and placing his hands on the ground he raised his terrible face: and having lifted one hand to his head he found it full of men and rabble sticking to it like the minute creatures which not unfrequently are found there; wherefore with a shake of his head he sends the men flying through the air just as hail does when driven by the fury of the winds. Many of these men were found to be dead; stamping with his feet.

And clinging to his hair, and striving to hide in it, they behaved like sailors in a storm, who run up the ropes to lessen the force of the wind [by taking in sail].

News of things from the East.

Be it known to you that in the month of June there appeared a Giant, who came from the Lybian desert... mad with rage like ants.... struck down by the rude.

This great Giant was born in Mount Atlas and was a hero ... and had to fight against the Egyptians and Arabs, Medes and Persians. He lived in the sea on whales, grampuses and ships.

Mars fearing for his life took refuge under the... of Jove.

And at the great fall it seemed as though the whole province quaked.


This spirit returns to the brain whence it had departed, with a loud voice and with these words, it moved...

And if any man though he may have wisdom or goodness .........

[Footnote: This passage, very difficult to decipher, is on the reverse of a drawing at Windsor, Pl. CXXII, which possibly has some connection with it. The drawing is slightly reduced in this reproduction; the original being 25 cm. high by 19 cm. wide.]

O blessed and happy spirit whence comest thou? Well have I known this man, much against my will. This one is a receptacle of villainy; he is a perfect heap of the utmost ingratitude combined with every vice. But of what use is it to fatigue myself with vain words? Nothing is to be found in them but every form of sin ... And if there should be found among them any that possesses any good, they will not be treated differently to myself by other men; and in fine, I come to the conclusion that it is bad if they are hostile, and worse if they are friendly.

Miscellaneous drafts of letters and personal records (1356—1368).


All the ills that are or ever were, if they could be set to work by him, would not satisfy the desires of his iniquitous soul; and I could not in any length of time describe his nature to you, but I conclude...


I know one who, having promised me much, less than my due, being disappointed of his presumptuous desires, has tried to deprive me of all my friends; and as he has found them wise and not pliable to his will, he has menaced me that, having found means of denouncing me, he would deprive me of my benefactors. Hence I have informed your Lordship of this, to the end [that this man who wishes to sow the usual scandals, may find no soil fit for sowing the thoughts and deeds of his evil nature] so that he, trying to make your Lordship, the instrument of his iniquitous and maliceous nature may be disappointed of his desire.


[Footnote: Below this text we read gusstino—Giustino and in another passage on the same page Justin is quoted (No. 1210, 1. 48). The two have however no real connection.]

And in this case I know that I shall make few enemies seeing that no one will believe what I can say of him; for they are but few whom his vices have disgusted, and he only dislikes those men whose natures are contrary to those vices. And many hate their fathers, and break off friendship with those who reprove their vices; and he will not permit any examples against them, nor any advice.

If you meet with any one who is virtuous do not drive him from you; do him honour, so that he may not have to flee from you and be reduced to hiding in hermitages, or caves or other solitary places to escape from your treachery; if there is such an one among you do him honour, for these are our Saints upon earth; these are they who deserve statues from us, and images; but remember that their images are not to be eaten by you, as is still done in some parts of India [Footnote 15: In explanation of this passage I have received the following communication from Dr. G. W. LEITNER of Lahore: "So far as Indian customs are known to us, this practice spoken of by Leonardo as 'still existing in some parts of India' is perfectly unknown; and it is equally opposed to the spirit of Hinduism, Mohammedanism and Sikhism. In central Thibet the ashes of the dead, when burnt, are mixed with dough, and small figures—usually of Buddha—are stamped out of them and some are laid in the grave while others are distributed among the relations. The custom spoken of by Leonardo may have prevailed there but I never heard of it." Possibly Leonardo refers here to customs of nations of America.] where, when the images have according to them, performed some miracle, the priests cut them in pieces, being of wood, and give them to all the people of the country, not without payment; and each one grates his portion very fine, and puts it upon the first food he eats; and thus believes that by faith he has eaten his saint who then preserves him from all perils. What do you think here, Man, of your own species? Are you so wise as you believe yourselves to be? Are these things to be done by men?


As I told you in past days, you know that I am without any.... Francesco d'Antonio. Bernardo di Maestro Jacopo.


Tell me how the things happened.


j lorezo 2 inbiadali 3 inferri de 4in lorezo 5[inno abuil] 6 in acocatu 7 per la sella 8colte di lor 9v cavallott I0el uiagg IIal I2a lurez 13in biada 14inferri 15abuss 16in viagg 17alorz [Footnote: This seems to be the beginning of a letter, but only the first words of the lines have been preserved, the leaf being torn down the middle. No translation is possible.]

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