The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci' translated by Edward McCurdy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci translated by Edward McCurdy and published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1906. It is believed to be the first unexpurgated translation in English, featuring the della verga passage, although that may also be in a later (augmented) edition.

Apparently, Robert Newton Linscott (1886-1964) abridged and prefaced McCurdy's translation and published it at the The Modern Library around 1957.


Full text[1]

Della verga excerpt

"Della verga. This confers with the human intelligence and sometimes has intelligence of itself, and although the will of the man desires to stimulate it it remains obstinate and takes its own course, and moving sometimes of itself without licence or thought by the man, whether he be sleeping or waking, it does what it desires; and often the man is asleep and it is awake, and many times the man is awake and it is asleep; many times the man wishes it to practise and it does not wish it; many times it wishes it and the man forbids it. It seems therefore that this creature has often a life and intelligence separate from the man, and it would appear that the man is in the wrong in being ashamed to give it a name or to exhibit it, seeking the rather constantly to cover and conceal what he ought to adorn and display with ceremony as a ministrant."

Incipit

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I acknowledge with gratitude my indebtedness to the work of Paul Müller-Walde, Ettore Verga and Jean Paul Richter, pioneers.

I am indebted to Sir Kenneth Clark, to the Librarian of the Royal Library at Windsor, and to the Secretary to the Syndics of the Cam- bridge University Press for permission to reprint the translation of the passages on the Nature of the Winds from the Catalogue of the Draw- ings of Leonardo da Vinci at Windsor.

My special thanks are also due to the Librarian of the Royal Library for his kindness in allowing me to select as many illustrations as I desired from the incomparable collection of Leonardo's drawings at Windsor. It is largely as a result of this if my plates as well as my text afford some index to the almost infinite variety of Leonardo's interests. I am also much indebted to the authorities of the Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum, for allowing me simi- lar facilities. And my thanks are due to the staff of the London Library for many acts of courtesy extending over a number of years, to Mr. A. C. Fifield and to the preparer of the index, Mr. John Crow, both of whom have read my proofs and made many helpful sug- gestions.


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INTRODUCTORY NOTE

1517, 10 October.

In one of the outlying parts [of Amboise] Monsignor and the rest of us went to see Messer Lunardo Vinci the Florentine. . . . This gen- tleman has written of anatomy with such detail, showing by il- lustrations the limbs, muscles, nerves, veins, ligaments, intestines and whatever else there is to discuss in the bodies of men and women, in a way that has never yet been done by anyone else. All this we have seen with our own eyes; and he said that he had dissected more than thirty bodies, both of men and women, of all ages. He has also written of the nature of water, of divers machines and of other matters, which he has set down in an infinite number of volumes all in the vulgar tongue, which if they should be published will be profitable and very enjoyable.

(Extract from The Journey of Cardinal Luis of Aragon through Germany, the Netherlands, France and Northern Italy, 1517-1518, written by Antonio de Beatis. Edited by Ludwig Pastor and published at Freiburg im Breisgau, 1905.)


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PREFACE


In the year nineteen hundred and six in the audacity of youth I ventured to apply a comprehensive title to what was in reality a com- paratively small selection from the contents of Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks} I have now attempted to redeem the promise of my title in some degree of completeness. More than half a century ago, when the work of transcription of the Leonardo manuscripts was first com- menced, a controversy arose among scholars as to whether the best method of publication was by individual manuscripts or collectively with some attempt at classification. Time has a way of proving most controversies vain, and in this instance it has shown the essential Tightness of the position of both disputants. The publication of the transcripts of the original manuscripts, with facsimiles, has served as the foundation of all subsequent study. Some classification of the ma- terial, however, has been found to be necessary on account of the extraordinary diversity of the subjects treated of in the same manu- script, in the majority of cases. Leonardo himself admitted as much in a prefatory note to the manuscript now in the British Museum (Arun- del 263), and the action of Pompeo Leoni in compiling the Codice Atlantico out of other manuscripts by the use of scissors and paste has only made confusion worse confounded. I have therefore arranged the subject-matter under various main headings, but beyond this I have made no change of order, the passages in each section appearing in the same sequence as in the manuscripts, those of Milan coming first followed by those in Paris, London and Windsor. In the few cases, however, in which the whole or substantially the whole of a manu- script falls within the same section I have given it priority, e.g. in Anatomy', 'Flight', Tainting', and 'Optics'. About a dozen pictures are all that can be attributed to Leonardo

1 Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, Edward MacCurdy, m.a., crown 8 vo, 14 illustra- tions, pp. xiv, 289. London: Duckworth U Co., 1906.

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14 PREFACE

with any degree of certitude or even of probability, and the witness of contemporary record, however credulously interpreted, does not do more than double or treble the number. How he disposed of his time would be an enigma but for the existence of the vast collection of drawings, and particularly of the notebooks. These number upwards of five thousand pages, the contents of which I have attempted to classify under some fifty headings. The classification is, as I know, rough and imperfect, this the wellnigh infinite variety of the contents having rendered almost inevitable. For, of this man who did a few works of art most divinely well, it may be said that he took all knowl- edge as his province, and that in his individual achievement he sym- bolizes the diversity of an epoch as fully as can be said of any man at any period in the world's history. To one who has studied them intermittently for more than a quarter of a century these manuscripts — the product of how many thousand hours of intellectual activity! — are the records of the working of the mightiest machine perhaps that has ever been a human brain: fragments of a larger purpose, charted, defined, explored, but never fulfilled, of which the treatises containing the sum of his researches in anatomy, physiology and geology form component parts, fragments of a vast encyclopaedia of human knowl- edge.

What thinker has ever possessed the cosmic vision so insistently? He sought to establish the essential unity of structure of all living things, the earth an organism with veins and arteries, the body of a man a type of that of the world. The perceptions of his brain are hardly if at all fettered by bondage of time and place. At rare times, however, the personal note supervenes and moods of exultation or depression flash out their meaning in a phrase. The mood of the seer finds ex- pression in fable or allegory, or in the series of 'the Prophecies', reveal- ing the depth of his mordant humour and his power of analysis of the motives which guide human conduct, or in speculation as to results that would follow possible extension of man's power — in which time has confirmed his prescience and his foreboding.

The manuscripts are a wellnigh inexhaustible quarry in which the student of every phase of Leonardo's mental activity will find material. They are of peculiar value for the biographer, both in their revelation of personality and in the manner in which they react on contemporary


PREFACE 15

record. Thus they tend to confirm Vasari in his more picturesque statements. He has told how Leonardo when he passed the places where birds were sold would often take them from their cages, pay the price demanded, and restore their liberty by letting them fly into the air. 'The goldfinch', wrote Leonardo, 'will carry spurge to its little ones imprisoned in a cage — death rather than loss of liberty.' The purport of the note becomes clear from the fact that certain varieties of the spurge form a violent poison. His account of how Leonardo collected lizards, hedgehogs, newts, serpents and all sorts of strange creatures, and from these constructed the head of a hideous monster, when in his youth he received a commission to paint something on a shield which should cause terror to the beholder, is directly confirmed by the painter's own precept, 'how to make an imaginary animal appear real'; the method being that each part should have a basis of reality, thus the body of a serpent, head of a mastiff or setter, eyes of cat, ears of porcupine, nose of greyhound, eyebrows of lion, temples of an old cock and neck of turtle. So also with reference to Leonardo's activities as master of pageant at the Court of Milan, the automatic lion which according to Vasari formed part of the pageant on the occasion of the entry of the French King, that advanced a few steps and opened its breast to show it filled with lilies, is drawn in different positions on a page of the Anatomy MSS. at Windsor.

The letters and fragments of letters are also of primary importance for the biographer. They sound the whole gamut of sensations from the proud confidence of the first letter to Ludovic and that to the Com- missioners of the Cathedral of Piacenza, through the terse appeals of the later days in Milan when 'the horse' was ready for the casting and foreign subsidies had exhausted the Treasury, to those written in the depression of the Roman period, when his hopes of employment had been frustrated and he had been denounced to the Pope for his practice of anatomy, while his nerves were reacting helplessly to the misbe- haviour of an apprentice.

Of the real ultimate value of the results of Leonardo's various sci- entific researches and investigations I have no title to attempt to speak. They can be judged only by specialists, and when a section is thus passed under review the result from the time of Dr. William Hunter onwards has been to confirm the impression of their great worth, es-


16 PREFACE

tablishing him as a thinker of very exact powers of analysis as well as a fertile investigator whose work shows a firm grasp of the principles of experimental science. For example, among the anatomical investiga- tions which find record in the Windsor Manuscripts is that of the spinal cord and intestines of the frog. 'The frog', he says, 'retains life for some hours when the head, the heart, and all the intestines have been taken away. And if you prick the said cord it instantly twitches and dies' (Quaderni V 21 r.). On the reverse of the same sheet is written: 'the frog instantly dies when the spinal cord is pierced; and previous to this it lived without head, without heart, or any bowels or intestines or skin; and here therefore it would seem lies the foundation of movement and life.'

The originality of his methods of anatomical investigation is illus- trated by the details he gives of the making of wax casts in order to discover the true form of the ventricles of the brain:

'Make two air holes in the horns of the great ventricles and insert melted wax by means of a syringe, making a hole in the ventricle of the memoria, and through this hole fill the three ventricles of the brain; and afterwards when the wax has set take away the brain and you will see the shape of the three ventricles exactly. But first insert thin tubes in the air holes in order that the air which is in these ventricles may escape and so make room for the wax which enters into the ventricles' (Quaderni V 7 r.). Leonardo, as the learned editors of the Quaderni d'Anatomia inform us, was the first to make casts of the cerebral ventricles, and several hundred years elapsed before the idea occurred to any other anatomist. It is on the fringe of this uncharted knowledge that the gift of ex- pression often haunts and tantalizes by its beauty.

'Every weight tends to fall towards the centre by the shortest way' (C 28 v.) is the kernel of Newton's law of gravitation. 'The earth is moved from its position by the weight of a tiny bird resting upon it. The surface of the sphere of the water is moved by a tiny drop of water falling upon it' (B.M. 19 r.). Is this also the language of mechanics? In the section of his treatise on 'Painting', in which he institutes comparison between painting and the other arts, he has no divided allegiance; but, in 'the Prophecies', he has expressed his sense of the potentialities of literature, although somewhat enigmatically: 'Feathers


PREFACE 17

shall raise men even as they do birds, towards heaven; that is by letters written with their quills.'

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 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 chance 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 where under the rubric 'Of local movement of flexible dry things' he discusses the movement of dust when a table is struck — of the dust which is sep- arated into various hillocks descending from the hypotenuse of these hillocks, entering beneath their base and raising itself round 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.

I have not considered it necessary to transcribe the numerous pages of Latin declensions and conjugations or the various portions of a Latin-Italian glossary which are to be found in Manuscript H of the 'Institut'. It has been suggested that they were compiled for the instruc- tion of Maximilian and Francesco Sforza, who were born in January 1493 and February 1495, and whose features are familiar as they kneel in chubby complacency in the Zenale altar-piece in the Brera ; and the elder of whom is the boy seen sitting reading Cicero in the fascinating fresco by a Milanese painter now in the Wallace Collection. It is some-


18 PREFACE

what difficult to fit Leonardo into the part of a private tutor to the Sforza princes although he performed various functions at the court, but it is quite possible that these lists, although as usual they are in 'left-handed writing', were compiled for the purpose of imparting information. The fact that the allegories about animals, which are for the most part a compilation from Pliny and medieval bestiaries, are also found in Manuscript H suggests the possibility that if the Latin grammar and glossary were written for the instruction of the Sforza princes, Leonardo's book of beasts may have been put together for their edification as a sort of antidote, so that the acerbities of the Latin conjugations might be varied by such rare and refreshing fruit as the story of the amphisbaena — a four-footed beast that resembled the Push- mipullyou of Hugh Lofting's Dolittle books in having a head at each end, both of which, however, discharged poison, unlike those of the modern story. Leonardo's imagination is seen perhaps in completest freedom in the fragment of a fantastic tale in the form of letters, in the Codice Atlantico. The giant of such stature that when he shook his head he dislodged showers of men who were clinging to the hairs, is a fantasy curiously suggestive of the actions of Gulliver in Lilliput.

The problem of the interpretation of the letters purporting to be written from Armenia has been a vexed question ever since Dr. Jean Paul Richter made their existence known. The evidence, I think, tends to confirm the view that they are a record of fact and that Leonardo was for a time in the East, nor as it seems to me is this interpretation rendered untenable as Dr. Verga would seem to suggest, by the circum- stance of Leonardo having used the classical nomenclature of Ptolemy in these letters. The references to books which occur in Leonardo's manuscripts show that he was in the habit of studying all classical and medieval authorities obtainable on the subjects in which he was inter- ested. Ptolemy was one of the chief sources from which he gratified his curiosity as to the distant and dimly recorded places and peoples of the earth. Pliny, Strabo, and even Sir John Mandeville also figure in the category. The system of nomenclature of Ptolemy supplied the forms he must inevitably have used in expressing his first conceptions of dis- tant places. The same consideration must certainly have operated in the minds of many contemporary travellers. Geography was one of the sciences in which the knowledge of classical literature may be said to


PREFACE 19

have lain like a dead hand. Leonardo's debt to Ptolemy was great. In a passage in his treatise on anatomy in which he described how his sys- tem of dissection of the various parts of man is to be so co-ordinated that the result may reveal the structure or mechanism of the whole body, he pays a tribute to Ptolemy as a master of synthetic arrangement whom he is proud to follow: 'therefore there shall be revealed to you here in fifteen entire figures the cosmography of the "minor mondo" [the Microcosmos or 'lesser world'] in the same order as was used by Ptolemy before me in his cosmography'. May not his debt to Ptolemy have been much the same in the one case as in the other — in the one the arrangement, in the other the nomenclature, and perhaps the first interest in places ?

The manuscripts are the repository of much practical wisdom de- signed to sweeten the intercourse of life and revealing itself in divers unexpected ways. A social reformer might profitably stand upon the precept : 'Let the street be as wide as the universal height of the houses'. The evils of absentee landlordism and those resulting from the amass- ing of huge estates — 'field laid unto field, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth' — are alike exorcized in the sentence, 'Happy is that estate which is seen by the eye of its lord'. Riches had lost some of their chief lures for the man who could write thus : 'Small rooms or dwellings set the mind in the right path, large ones cause it to go astray'; and, 'Wine is good but water is preferable at table'.

The golden mean in all things — failing this, renunciation. 'Entbeh- ren sollst du, sollst entbehren.' 'Neither promise yourself things nor do things', he wrote, 'if you see that when deprived of them they will cause you material suffering'. The sentence serves to recall a remark once uttered by Dr. Jowett on the subject of smoking: 'Do not set up for yourself any new necessities'.

This practical sense is always perceptible when he is discussing the subject of art. In his 'Botany for Painters' he pauses in the act of defining the laws of branch structure to address the painter who, as he recognizes, is bound to be unacquainted with these laws, and to assure him that he may escape the censure of those who have studied them if he is zealous to represent everything according to Nature. So also in discussing the flight of birds (C.A. 214 r. a) he turns for parallel to the movement of the fish's tail; and this, he says, may be proved with a pair


20 PREFACE

of oars. And in stating the variation in a bird's weight as it spreads itself out or draws itself together (E 43 v.) he adds, 'and the butterflies make experiments of this in their descents'. At times, however, the operation of this practical sense is obscured by the insistence upon pri- mary laws: e.g. 'In order to give the exact science of the movement of the birds in the air it is necessary first to give the science of the winds, and this we shall prove by means of the movements of the water. This science is in itself capable of being received by the senses: it will serve as a ladder to arrive at the knowledge of flying things in the air and the wind' (E 54 r.).

Of the closeness and exactness of his power of observation certain of the anatomical drawings afford example, equally with the studies for pictures. The lines seem to have the spontaneity and inevitability of life itself. The same power translated is visible in his descriptions of Nature in her changeful moods. These have something of the effect of studies taken with a camera at close range. As when for example he speaks of the waves made by the wind in May running over the cornfields with- out the ears of corn changing their place; of reeds scarcely visible in the light but standing out well between the light and the shade (L 87 r.) ; of waves which intersect after the manner of the scales of a fir cone, reflecting the image of the sun with the greatest splendour be- cause the radiance of so many reflections is blended together (B.M. 25 r.) ; of water in impact with a larger fall turning like the wheel of a mill (F 81 r.). A statement in the Leicester Manuscript (13 r.) as to the surface of tiny shadowed waves shaping itself in lines that meet in an angle, as though formed by the sand, this being proof of its shallow- ness, might serve as an exact description of the treatment of waves in Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus', as also in certain of his illustrations to Dante. Botticelli, who frequented Verrocchio's studio when Leonardo was there as a pupil, is the only one of his Florentine contemporaries whose practice was cited by him in his writings on art. While thus on the one hand his teaching might serve to interpret the practice of Botti- celli, it bridges the wellnigh bottomless gulf in which the votaries of classicism forgather, and anticipates the freedom of composition and subtilty of atmospheric effects of the period of naturalism. His precept that the mind should seek stimulation to various inventions from the spectacle of the blend of different stains on a wall, postulates utmost


PREFACE 21

liberty in arrangement. The most delicate evanescent effects of Anton Mauve, or of Courbet at the time when he painted his 'Duck Shooter', are brought before us by such a sentence as the following: 'No opaque body is without shadow or light except where there is a mist lying over the ground when it is covered with snow, or it will be the same when it snows in the country' (Quaderni II 6 r.).

Similarly the spirit of Whistler's creations is evoked in the directions under the rubric, 'How to represent white figures' (MS. 2038 Bib. Nat. 20 r.) ; and Turner's most characteristic effects are recalled by the ethereal simplicity and directness of Leonardo's description of the phenomena of sunrise :

'At the first hour of the day the atmosphere in the south near to the horizon has a dim haze of rose-flushed clouds; towards the west it grows darker, and towards the east the damp vapour of the horizon shows brighter than the actual horizon itself, and the white of the houses in the east is scarcely to be discerned; while in the south, the farther distant they are, the more they assume a dark rose-flushed hue, and even more so in the west; and with the shadows it is the contrary, for these disappear before the white' (C.A. 176 r. b).

Who having witnessed the sequence of the effects of sunrise from the angle of observation afforded by a hilltop, can doubt Leonardo's description to be a record of what he had actually seen?

'Pre-imagining — the imagining of things that are to be. Post- imagining — the imagining of things that are past.' So in a passage in the Windsor Manuscripts Leonardo defines with singular felicity two fields of thought over which his spirit ranged with a freedom only limited by the necessity of interpreting natural phenomena. The Leicester Manuscript contains the sum of his researches in the natural history of the earth; in the records that time has written in the rocks and the high deposits of the mountain ranges, of the period when as he says 'above the plains of Italy where now birds fly in flocks fishes were wont to wander in large shoals'. 'Sufficient for us', he states, 'is the testimony of things produced in the salt waters and now found again in the high mountains far from the seas.' Elsewhere in the same manu- script he refers to the discovery of a prehistoric ship found during the digging of a well on the country estate of one of Ludovic Sforza's retinue, and the decision taken to change the position of the well in


22 PREFACE

order to leave it intact. In a passage in the Arundel Manuscript he apostrophizes as a once-living instrument of constructive nature the form of a great fish whose bones despoiled and bare, as it lies in a hollow winding recess of the hills of Lombardy, are become as an armour and support to the mountain that lies above it. The lines seem charged with just such sensations as must have animated that first scientist in the Dordogne whom a fortunate chance led to enter the caves of Les Eyzies.

But it is in the realm of pre-imagining, 'the imagining of things that are to be', that the manuscripts constitute the most impressive revela- tion of his creative thought. That a single mind could conceive and anticipate the growth of knowledge at such divers points as the circula- tion of the blood, the heliocentric theory, the law of inertia, the camera obscura, is only to be believed because the evidence for it exists.

In the fragment of a torn letter written apparently to Ludovic Sforza during the embarrassed later years of his rule in Milan, Leonardo reveals how disastrous from the standpoint of the artist were the exi- gencies of the time. The same may also be said with regard to the conditions which prevailed over Europe during a considerable period of the Great War : the arts put to silence and altar-piece and fresco hid- den away in bomb-proof shelters or protected with sand-bags. To the completeness of this silence, however, as affecting the great names in art, that of Leonardo formed a unique exception. In war as in peace the course of events demonstrated that as Siren has said, 'no one can be indifferent to Leonardo'. All the most characteristic developments of the Great War, those which distinguish it from all in the long roll of its predecessors — the use of the bombing aeroplane, the use of poison gas, the tank and the submarine — all afford examples of his prescience. He foretold the construction of each, not with the enigmatic utterance of the seer, but with such precision of scientific and mechanical detail as would be natural in one who held, as did Leonardo, the office of mili- tary engineer in the Romagna under Caesar Borgia during the brief tenure of his power, and had offered his services in a similar capacity to Ludovic Sforza. It may seem something of an enigma that such activities should have emanated from the brain of one who has stigma- tized warfare as 'bestialissima pazzia' (most bestial madness). The clue to its solution is to be found, however, in a passage in one of the


PREFACE 23

Leonardo Manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale (MS. 2037, 10 r.) in which he refers to the difference between offensive and defensive warfare, and emphasizes the necessity of preparation for the one as a safeguard of all that life holds most dear: 'When besieged by ambitious tyrants I find a means of offence and defence in order to preserve the chief gift of Nature, which is liberty', and so he goes on to speak first of the position of the walls, and then of how people may maintain their good and just lords.

He envisaged the scientific possibilities of the use of poison gas in naval warfare, gave a formula for its composition and described how a mask might be made to act as a preventive. It is impossible lightly to assume that Leonardo, who has written: 'It is an infinitely atrocious thing to take away the life of a man', would have regarded the use of poison gas against the civil population as permissible under any cir- cumstances.

The prototype of the tank or armoured car appears in one of Leo- nardo's drawings in the British Museum. He has thus foreshadowed its use in breaking the line: 'these take the place of the elephants. One may tilt with them. One may hold bellows in them to spread terror among the horses of the enemy, and one may put carabiniers in them to break up every company' (B 83 v.).

In this as in his attempts to construct a machine for flight, he was hampered by the lack of knowledge of a suitable motive power for propelling such a machine. He studied the laws of flight and the con- ditions under which it existed in Nature with inexhaustible zeal, and his scientific deductions from these go far to create the type of the modern aeroplane. He thought of flight as man's natural entry into the deferred inheritance of the air, and did not, apparently, foresee that such was man's nature that his wings would inevitably become the wings of war. Had he envisaged the extension of man's power as en- abling him to rain death from the skies his attitude might conceivably have been that of the artist in Johnson's Rasselas, of whom it is related that having mastered the art of flying by the invention of wings on the model of those of the bat he refused to divulge his secret. 'If men were all virtuous', he said, 'I should with great alacrity teach them all to fly. But what would be the security of the good, if the bad could at pleasure invade them from the sky ? Against an enemy sailing through


24 PREFACE

the clouds neither walls nor mountains and seas could afford any se- curity. A flight of northern savages might hover in the wind and light at once with irresistible violence upon the capital of a fruitful region that was rolling beneath them. Even this [the Amharic] valley the retreat of princes . . . might be violated.'

The conjecture that such would in fact have been Leonardo's attitude is further strengthened by the nature of his remarks, on the subject of the unrestricted use of the submarine. The passage, in the Leicester Manuscript (22 v.), is as follows:

'How by an appliance many are able to remain for some time under water. How and why I do not describe my method of remaining under water for as long a time as I can remain without food; and this I do not publish or divulge, on account of the evil nature of men, who would practise assassinations at the bottom of the seas by breaking the ships in their lowest parts and sinking them together with the crews who are in them.'

'To preserve the chief gift of Nature which is liberty' — this if not the motive underlying all his study of mechanisms of warfare was undoubtedly a controlling factor; for in the world as he envisaged it there is sovereign liberty for the individual to think and devise.

As the long labour of preparation of this edition of Leonardo's writings draws to an end, a letter comes to me from the United States telling me of the fact of the Faculty of Princeton University having drawn up a list of ten names of men of all time who have done most to advance human knowledge. The names are: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galileo, Leonardo, Pasteur, Shakespeare, Newton, Darwin and Ein- stein. No such list is ever likely to win general agreement, for the lack of a common standard of values. It may at any rate be claimed for this one that each name is cut deep in the rock of achievement. In thought of some of the names the strange prescience which has caused Leonardo to be styled 'the forerunner' recurs inevitably to the mind. As, inde- pendently of the researches of Galileo, he wrote 'the sun does not move', so he enunciated the root principle of Newton's law of gravitation in the words : 'every weight tends to fall towards the centre by the shortest way'; so also in several passages the nature of which is indicated by such a sentence as the following : 'write of the quality of time as distinct from its mathematical divisions', he would seem to have been pointing


PREFACE 25

along the road which in our own times has been travelled by Einstein.

Where his energy shows itself most inexhaustible is in the investiga- tion of the working of the elemental forces, as in the sections, 'Move- ment and Weight' and 'Water'. As water may be seen winding in won- der-working coils through his landscape backgrounds, so with infinite zeal he set himself to study how the elements are situated one within the other, why water moves and why its motion ceases, how it rises in the air through the heat of the sun, and afterwards falls in rain: the artist's love of beauty transforming the scientist's purpose even while he is in the act of wresting from its infinite variety its underlying principles.

Certain of the results of these investigations formed that volume on 'The Nature of Water' which was one of those seen in the manor house at Cloux near Amboise, where Leonardo passed the last three years of his life, and where in October 15 17 he was visited by a Cardinal of Aragon and his retinue. To the fortunate circumstance of the Cardi- nal's secretary Antonio de Beads having kept a diary in which he set down particulars of the visit, we owe our knowledge of the fact that the Leonardo manuscripts there formed 'an infinite number of volumes . . . which if they should be published will be profitable and very enjoyable'.

II

The early biographers of Leonardo da Vinci cultivated the picturesque with an almost metrical licence. Their narratives, which together con- stitute what Pater has termed the legend 'e, are as inadequate to reveal his work and personality as the fables of Vulcan's forge and the like are unsatisfying as an origin for Etna's fire. Moreover, in the different aspects which Etna has assumed to the imagination, seeming at first a caprice of the gods and a thing of rhapsody, and subsequently — as the tenor of thought changed — a field for the scientific study of the forces of Nature, there is presented a contrast no less sharply defined, and in its main features somewhat closely corresponding to that presented by the personality of Leonardo as shown in the earliest biographies and in the light of modern research. For the capricious volatile prodigy of youthful genius which the legende has bequeathed, the latter has sub- stituted a figure less romantic, less alluringly inexplicable, but of even


26 PREFACE

more varied and astonishing gifts. His greatness as an artist has suf- fered no change, but modern research has revealed the ordered con- tinuity of effort which preceded achievement. It has made manifest how he studied the structure of the human frame, of the horse, of rocks and trees, in order the better to paint and make statues, in that his work would then be upon the things he knew, and no sinew or leaf would be conventional, but taken directly from the treasury of Na- ture; since the artist should be 'the son, not the grandson of Nature'.

This habit of scientific investigation in inception subsidiary to the practice of his art, so grew to dominate it as to alienate him gradually from its practice to the study of its laws, and then of those which gov- ern all created Nature. The fruits of these studies lay hidden in manu- scripts of which the contents have only become fully known within the last half century. So by a curious appositeness he is associated in each age with the predominant current of its activity. His versatility in the arts caused him to seem an embodiment of the spirit of the Renais- sance. Alike as painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and musician, he aroused the wonder and admiration of his contemporaries. But to them, the studies which traversed the whole domain of Nature, prefigur- ing in their scope what the spirit of the Renaissance should afterwards become, were so imperfectly comprehended as to seem mere trifles, 'ghiribizzi', to be mentioned apologetically, if at all, as showing the wayward inconstancy of genius, and with regret on account of the time thus wasted which might have been spent on painting. Modern savants have resolved these trifles, and in so doing have estimated the value of Leonardo's discoveries and observations in the realms of exact science. They have acclaimed him as one of the greatest of savants : not in com- pleted endeavour which of itself reached fruition, but in conjecture and prefigurement of what the progress of science has in course of centuries established. Such conjecture, moreover, was not grounded in fantasy, but was the harvest of a lifetime of study of natural phenomena, and of close analysis of their laws. Anatomist, mathematician, chemist, geol- ogist, botanist, astronomer, geographer — the application of each of these titles is fully justified by the contents of his manuscripts at Milan, Paris, Windsor and London.

To estimate aright the value of his researches in the various domains of science would require an almost encyclopaedic width of knowledge.


PREFACE 27

In respect to these Leonardo himself in his manuscripts must be ac- counted 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 sub- sequently broke upon the city, as to cause positive statement on this point to be wellnigh 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 Anat- omy in the University of Pavia, and that they mutually assisted each other's studies. He was also the friend of Fra Luca Pacioli, the mathe- matician, and drew the diagrams for his De Divina Proportioned and iie 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 manu- scripts 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 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 occhiali 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.

At the commencement of the sixteenth century, the Ptolemaic theory of the Universe was still held in universal acceptance. Leonardo at first accepted it, and in his earlier writings the earth is represented as fixed, with the sun and moon revolving round it. He ended at some stage farther on in the path of modern discovery. On a page of mathematical notes at Windsor he has written in large letters, 'the sun does not move' (il sole no si muove).


28 PREFACE

He has been spoken of as the forerunner of Francis Bacon, of James Watt, of Sir Isaac Newton, of William Harvey. He cannot be said to have anticipated the discoveries with which their names are associated. It may, however, be claimed that he anticipated the methods of in- vestigation which, when pursued to their logical issue, could not but lead to these discoveries.

The great anatomist Vesalius, after having given up his Chair of Anatomy in 1561 in order to become the court physician at Madrid, spoke of himself as still looking forward to studying 'that true bible as we count it of the human body and of the nature of man'. Sir Michael Foster takes these words as the keynote of the life-work of Vesalius: 'the true bible to read is nature itself, things as they are, not the printed pages of Galen or another; science comes by observation not by au- thority'. In method Leonardo was the forerunner of Vesalius, and con- sequently of William Harvey, whose great work was the outcome of Vesalius's teaching. No passage in his writings constitutes an anticipa- tion of Harvey's discovery. He knew that the blood moved just as he also knew that the sun did not move, but the law of the circulation of the blood was as far beyond the stage at which his deductions had ar- rived as was the discovery of Copernicus. It was his work to establish, even before the birth of Vesalius, that 'science comes by observation not by authority'. Yet he was no mere empiric. He knew the authori- ties. He quotes in his manuscripts from Mundinus's Anatomia, and he must have known the work of Galen to which Mundinus served as an introduction. At a time when the Church 'taught the sacredness of the human corpse, and was ready to punish as a sacrilege the use of the anatomist's scalpel', Leonardo practised dissection; and he suffered in consequence of his temerity, since it was subsequent to the malicious laying of information concerning these experiments that the with- drawal of the papal favour brought about his departure from Rome in 1 51 5. Of such temerity the anatomical drawings are a rich harvest. The pall of authority was thrown aside; the primary need was for actual investigation, and of this they are a record. He would agree, he says, as to it being better for the student to watch a demonstration in anat- omy than to see his drawings, 'if only it were possible to observe all the details shown in these drawings in a single figure; in which, with all your ability, you will not see nor acquire a knowledge of more than


PREFACE 29

some few veins, while, in order to obtain an exact and complete knowl- edge of these, I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the various members and removing even the very smallest particles of the flesh which surrounded these veins, without causing any effusion of blood other than the imperceptible bleeding of the capillary veins'.

It was after his examination of these drawings that the great anato- mist Dr. William Hunter wrote that he was fully of opinion that 'Leonardo was the best Anatomist at that time in the world'.

Coleridge called Shakespeare 'myriad-minded'. If the Baconian con- tention were established the result would afford a parallel to the myr- iad-mindedness of Leonardo. Morelli speaks of him as 'perhaps the most richly gifted by nature among all the sons of men'. Equally em- phatic is the tribute of Francis I recorded by Benvenuto Cellini: 'He did not believe that any other man had come into the world who had attained so great knowledge as Leonardo, and that not only as sculptor, painter, and architect, for beyond that he was a profound philosopher.'

In regard to this undefined, ungarnered knowledge, the prevalent note of the early biographers is frankly the marvellous. To us his per- sonality seems to outspan the confines of his age, to project itself by the inherent force of its vitality down into modern times and so to take its due place among the intuitive influences of modern thought. To them, on the other hand, his personality projecting beyond the limits of his own age seemed to stretch back into the age of legend, to gather some- thing of its insouciance and its mystery. The figure — never sufficiently to be extolled for beauty of person — wandering through princes' courts improvising songs, bearing a lute as a gift from one patron to another, and playing upon it in such skilled fashion that that alone out of all the arts of which he had knowledge would suffice as 'open sesame' to win him welcome, seems indeed rather to have its habitation in Provence at the close of the twelfth century than to be that of a contemporary and fellow-citizen of Machiavelli and Savonarola. In lieu of any such period of toilsome apprenticeship as Vasari's biographies lead us customarily to expect, there seems almost a Pallas-like maturity at birth. The angel painted by him when an apprentice causes his master to abandon the use of the brush, in chagrin that a mere child had surpassed him; and so, in like manner, we are told that a monster which he painted on a shield filled his own father with dismay. Unsatisfied with this mastery


PREFACE


of the arts he sought to discern the arcana of Nature; and whither the quest had led him it was not for a mere biographer to say. But each will help us to conjecture, with hints more expressive than words, and less rebuttable. Leonardo's scornful references to the pretended wisdom of alchemists, astrologers and necromancers lay hidden meanwhile in the manuscripts, not available to contravene such suppositions.

The personality as represented in the early biographies is substan- tially that which is expressed in the phrase of Michelet, 'Leonard, ce frere italien de Faust'. It tells of him that he chose rather to know than to be, and that curiosity led him within the forbidden portals. It repre- sents in fact the popular medieval conception of scientific study. Much of the modern aesthetic appreciation is in its essential conception a more temperate restatement of the same point of view. Errors — or at any rate some of them! — are corrected in the light of the results of criti- cal research from Amoretti downwards: the outlook, nevertheless, re- mains that of Vasari and the Anonimo Fiorentino. Ruskin's dictum, that 'he debased his finer instincts by caricature and remained to the end of his days the slave of an archaic smile', is at one with the opinion of the folk of Wittenberg who lamented Faust's use of the unhallowed arts which had made him Helen's lover. The true analogy lies not with Faust but with Goethe, between whom and Leonardo there is perhaps as great a psychological resemblance as ever has existed between two men of supreme genius.

In each the purely artistic and creative faculties became subordinate, mastered by the sanity of the philosophical faculties.

In each alike the restless workings of the human spirit desiring to


/(now,


ranged over the various mediums


of


artistic expression, tem-


pered them to its uses, and finally passed on, looking beyond the art to the thought itself, unsatisfied with what — even in its perfection of utterance — was but a pale reflex of the phenomena it would observe. The two parts of Goethe's Faust-drama symbolize the gradual change of purpose, and may perhaps serve to represent Leonardo's two spheres of activity. Verrocchio's bottega and all the influences of the art-world of Florence in the Quattrocento were for him tutelage and training, as the medieval chap-book legends and the newly-arisen literature of the Romantic School were for the poet of Weimar. The result in each case was limpid, serene, majestic, for the elements which had gone to the




FIGURES TO REPRESENT LABOUR

Royal Library, Windsor


PREFACE 31

making of it had been fused molten in the flame-heat of genius. Yet the man behind the artist is still unsatisfied. He never shares the artist's accomplishment with such measure of absorption as characterized Ra- phael and Giovanni Bellini. He has something of the aloofness of Faust. There is that within him which art's appeal to the senses never kindled into life, never impelled to utter to one of its moments the supreme shibboleth of Hedonism, 'Stay, thou art so fair'. All the al- lurements of the medieval chap-book legend were revealed in the first part of the Faust-drama; then, this invocation being as yet unuttered, the thinker essays the problem. No beaten footsteps as before in this new avenue of approach. No clear limpidity of ordered effort. Titanic energy struggles painfully amid the chaos of dimly-perceived primeval forces. The result — even the very effort itself — according to much criti- cal opinion, was an artistic mistake.

The same judgment was passed on Leonardo's work as 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 him- self, 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 exposi- tion 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.'

Inchoate and comparatively barren of result as was his investigation of natural phenomena, it nevertheless was actual investigation, and it attained results.

We may instance the passages in the manuscript formerly at Holk- ham Hall, in which the fact of fossil shells being found in the higher mountain ridges of Lombardy is used by a process of deductive reason- ing to show how at one time the waters covered the earth. The hypo- thetical argument that the presence of these shells is to be attributed to the Flood, he meets by considering the rate of the cockel's progress. It is a creature possessed of no swifter power of motion when out of


32 PREFACE

water than the snail. It cannot swim, but makes a furrow in the sand by means of its sides, and travels in this furrow a space of three to four braccia daily, and by such a method of progression it could not in forty days have travelled from the Adriatic to Monferrato in Lombardy, a distance of two hundred and fifty miles. Neither is it a case of dead shells having been carried there by the force of the waves, for the living are recognizable by the shells being in pairs. Many other passages in the manuscripts might be cited to show by what varied paths he antici- pated the modern methods of scientific investigation. The words which Pater uses of the Renaissance of the fifteenth century, 'in many things great rather by what it designed or aspired to do than by what it ac- tually achieved' — applicable to Leonardo in respect of his work as an artist — are no whit the less applicable in reference to his work in sci- ence. Painting and sculpture filled only two of the facets of a mind which, as a crystal, took the light from whatever quarter light came. As, however, it was in these arts that he accomplished most, so such of his writings as treat of them are on the whole the most practical. In science, for the most part he heralded the work of others : in respect of his writings on art, we may apply to him the words which Diirer uses of himself in a similar connection : 'what he set down with the pen he did with the hand'. It is this very factor of experience working in the mind which at times causes an abrupt antithesis, in the transition from the general principle to discussion of the means whereby it should be realized. His work may perhaps be considered to lose somewhat of its literary value in consequence, but it acquires an almost unique interest among treatises on art by its combination of the two standpoints of theory and practice. Of this, one of the most striking instances occurs in a passage which is only to be found in the recension of the treatise on 'Painting' in the Vatican (Ludwig, cap. 180). Leonardo there sums up, tritely and profoundly, what should be the painter's purpose: 'a good painter has two chief objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul; the former is easy the latter hard'; after which follows the eminently reasonable, if perhaps unexpected, explanation, 'because he has to represent it by the attitudes and movements of the limbs'; and the knowledge of these, he proceeds to say, should be acquired by ob- serving the dumb, because their movements are more natural than those of any other class of persons. This very practical direction how to


PREFACE 33

approach towards the realization of an apparently abstract aim is en- tirely characteristic of his intention. The supreme misfortune, he says, is when theory outstrips performance. This essential practicality of mind brought about the result that in the more abstract portions of this branch of his writings his zest for first principles is most apparent. The sun, the origin of light and shade, is recognized as the first artist, and we are told that 'the first picture consisted merely in a line which sur- rounded the shadow of a man cast by the sun upon a wall'; and the comparison of poetry and painting resolves itself into a consideration of the relative importance of the senses to which the two arts make their appeal.

It is perhaps in the passages indicating the manner in which par- ticular scenes and actions should be represented in art that Leonardo's powers as a writer find their most impressive utterance. His natural in- clination impelled him to the contemplation of the vast and awe-inspir- ing in Nature; but in these terse, vivid, analytic descriptions, the consideration of the ultimate purpose operates throughout to restrain and co-ordinate. The descriptive passage entitled 'The way to repre- sent a battle', in which the effect is built up entirely by fidelity of de- tail, forms an absolute triumph of realism. There can be no possibility of difference of opinion as to how Leonardo regarded warfare. It was a grim necessity, and he was himself busied on occasions in devising its instruments; but he had no illusions as to its real nature, he character- izes it elsewhere as 'most bestial madness' (bestialissima pazzia) . Here, however, he never suffers his pen to digress from the work of simple description. To generalize would be alien to his purpose, which is to show how to portray a battle in progress. Consequently he shows what it is that is actually happening amid the clouds of dust and smoke and the rain of gunshot and falling arrows; and describes tersely, graph- ically, relentlessly, the passions and agonies of the combatants as shown in their faces and their actions, the bitterness of the deaths of the van- quished, the fury and exhaustion of the victors and the mad terror of the horses, since these should find a place in the work of whosoever would represent war; 'and see to it', he says in conclusion, 'that you make no level spot of ground that is not trampled over with blood'. The passage enables us in part to realize what he sets himself to repre- sent in the picture of the Battle of Anghiari. It is, however, far more


34 PREFACE

than a mere note for a picture. It possesses an interest and value apart either from this fact or from the mastery in the art of writing which it reveals. Its ultimate value is moral and didactic. He forbears to gen- eralize but constrains the reader in his stead. His description is of the identical spirit which has animated the creations of Tolstoy and Verest- chagin. Like these, Leonardo seeks to make war impossible, by show- ing it stripped of all its pageantry and trappings, in its naked and hideous reality.

The passages which describe a tempest and a deluge, and their repre- sentation in painting, possess the same vigorous realism and fidelity of detail, and contain some of Leonardo's most eloquent and picturesque writing; and among the other notes connected with pictures we may instance that for the 'Last Supper', descriptive of the actions of the disciples, which, although of far slighter mould than any of the pas- sages already referred to, yet possesses a restrained but very distinct dramatic power. These same qualities may be discerned perhaps even to more advantage in one of the very rare comments on public events which are to be found in his writings. After Ludovic Sforza's attempt to regain possession of Lombardy had ended with his defeat and cap- ture at the battle of Novara in April 1500, Leonardo wrote among notes on various matters, 'The Duke has lost his State, his possessions, and his liberty, and he has seen none of his works finished'. (II Duce perse lo Stato e la roba e la liberta, e nessuna sua opera si fini per lui.) Leonardo was a homeless wanderer in consequence of the events re- ferred to, and one of the works of which the Duke had not witnessed the completion was that of the statue on which Leonardo had been en- gaged intermittently during sixteen years, and the model of which had served as a target for the French soldiery; but this terse impassive com- ment is the only reference to these occurrences found in his writings. There is a certain poignant brevity and concentration in the sentence, which suffices even to recall some of the most inevitable lines of Dante.

It is within the narrow limits of the short sentence and the apothegm that Leonardo's command of language is most luminous. In some of these the thought expressed is so wedded to the words as scarcely to suffer transference. 'Si come una giornata bene spesa da lieto dormire cosi una vita bene usata da lieto morire' must lose something of its grace in any rendering. Certain of these sentences record the phenom-


PREFACE 35

ena of Nature so simply as to cause us almost to doubt whether they are intended to do more than this. 'All the flowers which see the sun mature their seed, and not the others, that is those which see only the reflection of the sun', is perhaps written as an observation of Nature without thought of a deeper meaning; but it is hard to suppose that a similar restriction applies to the sentence: 'tears come from the heart not from the brain'; although it is found in a manuscript which treats of anatomy.

It would seem that it was natural to him as a writer to use words as symbols and figuratively, thus employing things evident and revealed in metaphor. Of this habit of veiled utterance the section of his imagi- native writings known as 'the Prophecies' affords the most impressive and sustained series of instances. Some few of these are, as their name implies, a forecast of future conditions; many attack the vices and abuses of his own time. In the succinct, antithetical form of their com- position Leonardo apparently created his own model.

There are questions more intimate than any of those which arise from the consideration of his achievement in these various arts and sciences; questions which the mere number of these external interests tends to veil in comparative obscurity, causing us to regard Leonardo almost as a resultant of forces rather than as an individual, to see in him as it were an embodiment of the various intellectual tendencies of the Renaissance — as though the achievements were the man. The figure crosses the stage of life in triumph, playing to perfection many parts. But of these enough. Let us try to come nearer, to get past the cloak of his activities, and essay to 'pluck the heart out of this mystery'. As a means towards this end, let us consider his attitude with regard to cer- tain of the problems of life.

His writings inculcate the highest morality, though rather as a rea- soned process of the mind than as a revelation from an external au- thority. He preserves so complete a reticence on the subject of doctrinal belief as to leave very little base for inference as to his faith or lack of faith. The statement of Vasari, that he did not conform to any religion, deeming it better perhaps to be a philosopher than a Christian, was omitted in the second edition of the Lives, and may therefore be looked upon as probably merely a crystallization of some piece of Florentine gossip. It would be idle to attempt to surmise as to the reason of the


36 PREFACE

withdrawal. To whatever cause this may have been due, its significance is no whit the less as outweighing a mass of suggestion and vain repeti- tion on this subject by later writers. In temperament Leonardo has something akin to certain of the precursors of the Reformation. In any conflict between the dictates of reason and of authority he would be found on the side of freedom of thought. 'Whoever', he wrote, 'in dis- cussion adduces authority uses not his intellect but rather memory.'

The cast of his mind was anti-clerical. His indignation at the abuses and corruption of the Church found expression in satire as direct and piercing as that of Erasmus. His scorn of the vices of the priesthood, of their encouragement of superstition, of the trade in miracles and par- dons, which is eloquently expressed in the section of his writings known as 'the Prophecies', may not unnaturally have earned for him the title of heretic from those whom he attacked. His quarrel lay, however, not with the foundations on which faith rested, but with what he con- ceived to be its degradation in practice by its votaries. His own path lay along the field of scientific inquiry; but where the results of this research seemed at variance with revealed truth, he would reserve the issue, disclaiming the suggestion of antagonism. Nature indeed cannot break her own laws. The processes of science are sure, but there are regions where we cannot follow them. 'Our body is subject to heaven, and heaven is subject to the spirit.' So at the conclusion of a passage describing the natural origin of life, he adds, 'I speak not against the sacred books, for they are supreme truth'. The words seem a protest against the sterile discussion of these things. There is, indeed, a reticence in the expression of the formulas of faith, but the strands of its pres- ence may be seen in the web of life.

The impelling necessity to use life fully is the ever-recurrent burden of his moral sayings:

'Life well spent is long.'

'Thou, O God, dost sell unto us all good things at the price of la- bour.'

'As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.'

This vision of the end is steadfast. Death follows life even as sleep rounds ofr" the day, and as we work well in the day, so sleep when it comes is happy and untroubled. During the passing of the day there is


PREFACE


37


so much to be done, such opportunity to construct and to observe, so much knowledge to be won about this world wherein the day is passed, that there is scarce time remaining in which to stand in fear and won- der at thought of what chimeras the coming shadow may hold within it. It is better to use to-day than to spend it by questioning of to-mor- row. Duty in life is clear and we must follow it. When he speaks of what comes after, it is with that hesitance common to all, unless to speak of it be made habituate by custom, for to all, whatever be their belief, there yet remains something unknowable in the conditions of the change.

In one of the most beautiful passages of his writings — a fragment on time, the destroyer — Leonardo describes Helen in her old age as look- ing into her mirror and seeing there the wrinkles which time had im- printed on her face, and then weeping, and wondering why she had been twice carried away. Beautiful as is the description the hand which penned it is pre-eminently that of the scientist; we seem to see the anatomist at work with the scalpel, so minute is the observation therein revealed as tc tk§ effect of age and of the relentless approach of death upon the human frame.

'In her the painter had anatomized Time's ruin.'

And yet, as modern erudition in the person of the late Gerolamo Calvi has recently shown, Leonardo was not the original author of the passage. He amplified it and transformed it into a richer harmony by placing the apostrophe to Time the destroyer at the beginning as well as at the end, but the description of Helen he found in Ovid's Meta- morphoses (Book xv, 11. 232-6).

The fact illustrates the difficulty of interpreting the contents of the Notebooks. They contain matter some of it unoriginal and some of this doubtless is as yet unidentified.

The frequent recurrence in his writings and in his drawings and grotesques of the physical tokens of decay and death argues no morbid predilection, such as that shown by the painters of the danse macabre. It forms a proportioned part of his study and 'patient exposition' of the origin and development of the whole structure of man. In the results as we may read them, there is no incursion of the personal note. His attitude is always that of an observer, looking with curious eyes, noting all the phenomena of physical change, but yet all the while pre-


38 PREFACE

serving a strange impassivity. He never in any of his works or in his manuscripts gives the suggestion of possessing any of that regret at the passing of time which rings through Giorgione's sun-steeped idylls. Indeed, from all such lament he expressly dissociates himself. Time, he maintains, stays long enough for those who use it. The mere fact of the inevitability of death forbids regret. It therefore cannot be an evil. He speaks of it as taking away the memory of evil, and compares it with the sleep which follows after the day. The thought of this sleep brings silence: when on rare occasion the silence is broken, he stands with Shakespeare and Montaigne, revealing, as they do, when they address themselves to the same question, a quiet confidence, serene and proud.

The author of Virginibus Puerisque, discoursing whimsically upon the incidence and attributes of the tender passion, professes his utter inability to comprehend how any member of his own sex, with at most two exceptions, can ever have been found worthy to be its object. 'It might be very well', he says, 'if the Apollo Belvedere should suddenly glow all over into life, and step forward from the pedestal with that god-like air of his. But of the misbegotten changelings who call them- selves men and prate intolerably over dinner-tables, I never saw one who seemed worthy to inspire love — no, nor read of any except Leo- nardo da Vinci and perhaps Goethe in his youth.'

The suggestion as to the Apollo Belvedere is in entire harmony with the association of the names which follow. For if it had ever come to pass, as is conjectured in Heine's fantasy, that the gods of Greece, after their worship ceased, fallen on days of adversity, and constrained to baser uses, had walked the earth as men, surely no lives whereof record holds had come more naturally to Apollo's lot than would those of Goethe and Leonardo.

It would be vain to attempt to find better instances, yet these give only a capricious support at best to Stevenson's contention. They afford far more proof of his amazing temerity in attempting to view the king- dom of sentiment from the feminine standpoint.

These two names he ranks together in isolation from the rest of their sex — and this in respect precisely of that condition wherein the records of their lives reveal the least resemblance. Goethe was as susceptible and almost as fickle as Jupiter himself. The story of his heart is a ro- mance with many chapters, each enshrining a new name, and all end-


PREFACE 39

ing abruptly at the stage at which the poet remembers— at times somewhat tardily — the paramount claims of his art.

But in the case of Leonardo there are no grounds for supposing that any one such chapter was ever begun. None of his biographers connect his name with that of any woman in the way of love, nor do his own writings afford any such indication. They show that he lived only for the things of the mind. He would seem to have renounced deliberately all thought of participation in the tenderness of human relationship. He looked upon it as alien to the artist's supreme purpose: he must needs be solitary in order to live entirely for his art. His conception of the mental conditions requisite for the production of great art pre- supposes something of that isolation expressed in Pater's phrase: 'each mind keeping as a solitary prisoner its own dream of a world'.

The praise of solitude has ever been a fecund theme, although much of the fervour of its votaries has resulted in little more than a reverber- ation of the monkish jingle, 'O beata solitudo, O sola beatitudo.' In so far as praise of solitude is dispraise of the world and one's fellow-men and the expression of desire to shun them and their activities, it is a sterile thing and worse. Solitude is unnatural and only the use of it can justify the condition. Maybe that even then the dream will never come to birth! Certain it is that if it does we must suffer the pangs alone!

Concentration of the mind comes by solitude; and in this, according to Leonardo, its value to the artist consists. (Se tu sarai solo tu sarai tutto tuo.) 'If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself. If you are accompanied even by one companion you belong only half to yourself, or even less in proportion to the thoughtlessness of his conduct. ... If you must have companionship choose it from your studio; it may then help you to obtain the advantages which result from different methods of study.'

Such companionship of the studio implies some such measure of equality of attainment as it can never have been his own lot to meet with after leaving the circle of Verrocchio and the art world of Flor- ence. His own lesser companions of the studio were his pupils and servants, and the only one of these whom he admitted to any degree of personal intimacy was Francesco de' Melzi, who seems to have stood to him in the concluding years of his life almost in the position of a son to a father.


4 o PREFACE

Behind all his strength lay springs of tenderness; in life confined within the strait limits whereby his spirit proposed that its work should be more surely done, in his art they are manifest, therein revealing the repression of his life. His pictures are now so few that it would be to his drawings that we should chiefly look for support of this statement, and of these primarily perhaps to the many studies for Madonna pic- tures, and the sketches of children made in connection with them; also, however, to the two versions of the composition of the Madonna and Child with St. Anne. The differences between that in Burlington House and that in the Louvre show the artist's gradual growth of pur- pose. One motive, however, is found in both, namely that the Madonna is represented as so entirely absorbed in her Child that she is entirely unconscious of aught else. With the exception of the Madonna della Seggiola, and perhaps certain others of Raphael's Madonnas, there is no Madonna picture in Italian art in which the conception is more human or the ecstasy of motherhood is rendered with greater tender- ness. So Tart console de la vie'; and the same may be said in Leo- nardo's case of Nature perhaps even more truly than of art. If indeed any thought of consolation can be suffered in connection with a life so confident and full! For man's work is his ultimate self. Such hu- man hopes as begin and end in the individual are puny even in their highest fulfilment, and the processes of Nature, whatever their final end, seem eternal in contrast with their transience.

He interpreted man's highest aim to consist in seeking to know and to hand on the lamp of knowledge.


A RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

In the opening lines of the volume of manuscript notes 'begun at Florence in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli, on the 22nd day of March, 1508', now in the British Museum (Arundel MSS. 263), Leo- nardo explains the method of its composition. The passage may serve to summarize the impression made by the whole mass of Leonardo's manuscripts. 'This', he says, 'will be a collection without order, made up of many sheets which I have copied here, hoping afterwards to ar- range them in order in their proper places according to the subjects of which they treat; and I believe that before I am at the end of this I shall have to repeat the same thing several times; and therefore, O reader, blame me not, because the subjects are many, and the memory cannot retain them and say "this I will not write because I have al- ready written it". And if I wished to avoid falling into this mistake it would be necessary, in order to prevent repetition, that on every oc- casion when I wished to transcribe a passage I should always read over all the preceding portion, and this especially because long periods of time elapse between one time of writing and another.' Certain pages in the volume of manuscript in the British Museum would indeed seem to be of a much earlier date than this introductory sentence, and the whole body of the manuscripts, as may be shown by the time-refer- ences contained in them, extend over a period of some forty years, from Leonardo's early manhood to his old age. He commenced them during the time of his first residence in Florence, and was still adding to them when at Amboise.

The contents of this 'collection without order' are so diversified as to render wellnigh impossible any attempt at formal classification. In addition to the numerous fragments of letters, the personal records, the notes relating to his work as an artist, and the fragments of imaginative composition which are to be found therein, it presents by far the most complete record of his mental activity, and this may be said without exaggeration to have extended into practically all the avenues of hu-

41


42 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

man knowledge. These manuscripts serve in a sense to show the mind in its workshop, busied in researching, in making conjecture, and in re- cording phenomena, tempering to its uses, in so far as human instru- ment may, the vast forces of Nature.

He projected many treatises which should embody the results of these researches. Notes in the manuscripts themselves record the vari- ous stages of their composition. Some still exist in a more or less com- plete form. Of the fragments of others the order of arrangement is now only a matter of conjecture. In the manuscripts at Windsor, which treat mainly of anatomy, a note, dated April 2nd, 1489, speaks of writing the book 'about the human figure'. The manuscript given to the Am- brosian Library by Cardinal Federico Borromeo, now MS. C of the Institut de France, which is a treatise on light and shade, contains a note that 'on the 23rd day of April 1490, I commenced this book and recommenced the horse' — the latter reference being to the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza. In August 1499 a note in the Codice At- lantico states that he was then writing 'upon movement and weight'. These dates are, however, of relatively less importance, because each of these subjects occupied his thoughts during a long period of years. The two first formed a part of the artist's complete equipment as Leonardo conceived it: the third found practical issue in his under- takings in canalization and engineering in Lombardy, Tuscany, Ro- magna and elsewhere. In connection with the former of these two divisions of his activities may be cited the treatise on the nature of water formerly in the possession of the Earl of Leicester, and the sarrtf subject is also treated of among others in MS. F of the Institut, which according to a note, was commenced at Milan on September 12th, 1508.

The manuscripts as a whole are picturesquely described in the diary of a certain Antonio de Beatis, the secretary of the Cardinal of Aragon, who with his patron visited Leonardo at Amboise in October 1517. The many wanderings of the painter's life were then ended, and he was living with Francesco Melzi and his servant Battista de Villanis in the manor house of Cloux, the gift of Francis I. The diary relates that he showed his guests three pictures, the St. John, the Madonna with St. Anne, and the portrait of a Florentine lady, painted at the request of Giuliano de' Medici, which cannot now be identified. It further states that paralysis had attacked his right hand, and that therefore he could


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 43

no longer paint with such sweetness as formerly, but still occupied him- self in making drawings and giving instruction to others. (May the inference be that he then drew with the left hand? If so he presumably used it in the manuscripts, which are written backwards.)

'This gentleman has', he continues, 'written of anatomy with such detail, showing by illustrations the limbs, muscles, nerves, veins, liga- ments, intestines and whatever else there is to discuss in the bodies of men and women, in a way that has never yet been done by anyone else. All this we have seen with our own eyes; and he said that he had dissected more than thirty bodies, both of men and women, of all ages. He has also written of the nature of water, of divers machines and of other matters, which he has set down in an infinite number of vol- umes all in the vulgar tongue, which if they should be published will be profitable and very enjoyable.'

This description of the manuscripts — the only one by an eyewitness during Leonardo's lifetime — leads to the supposition that, if not all, at any rate by far the greater part of them were in Leonardo's possession at the time that he went to France, and were at Cloux at the time of his death.

The manuscripts then passed into the possession of Francesco Melzi, to whom Leonardo in his will, dated April 23rd, 151 8, bequeathed 'in return for the services and favours done him in the past', 'each and all of the books of which the said Testator is at present possessed, together with the other instruments and portraits which belong to his art and calling as a Painter'. Melzi returned to Milan shortly after Leonardo's death and took the manuscripts with him, and four years later a certain Alberto Bendedeo, writing from Milan to Alfonso d'Este, said that he believed that the Melzi whom Leonardo made his heir was in pos- session of 'such of his notebooks as treated of anatomy and many other beautiful things'.

Vasari visited Milan in 1566, and he states that Melzi whom he saw, and who was then 'a beautiful and gentle old man', possessed a great part of Leonardo's papers of the anatomy of the human body, and kept them with as much care as though they were relics. Some of the manu- scripts had already at this time passed into other hands, for Vasari refers to some which treated of painting and methods of drawing and colouring as being then in the possession of a certain Milanese painter


44 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

whose name he does not mention. The care which had been taken of those in Melzi's possession ceased at his death, which occurred in 1570. Some years later no restriction was placed by Melzi's heirs upon the action of a certain Lelio Gavardi di Asola, a tutor in the Melzi family, who took thirteen of the volumes of manuscripts with him to Florence for the purpose of disposing of them to the Grand Duke, Francesco. The duke's death, however, prevented the realization of this project, and Gavardi subsequently took the volumes with him to Pisa. Gio- vanni Ambrogio Mazzenta, a Milanese who was then at the University of Pisa studying law, remonstrated with Gavardi upon his conduct, and with such success that on Mazzenta's return to Milan in 1587 he took the volumes with him for the purpose of restoring them to the Melzi family. When, however, he attempted to perform this duty Dr. Orazio Melzi was so astonished at his solicitude in the matter that he made him a present of all the thirteen volumes, telling him further that there were many other drawings by Leonardo lying uncared-for in the attics of his villa at Vaprio. In 1590 Giovanni Ambrogio Maz- zenta joined the Barnabite Order and the volumes were then given by him to his brothers. They seemed to have talked somewhat freely about the incident, and in consequence, according to Ambrogio Maz- zenta's account, many people were filled with the desire to obtain similar treasures, and Orazio Melzi gave away freely drawings, clay models, anatomical studies, and other precious relics from Leonardo's studio.

Among the others who thus came into possession of works by Leo- nardo was the sculptor Pompeo Leoni, who was employed in the service of the King of Spain. He afterwards induced Orazio Melzi, by the promise of obtaining for him official honours and preferment, to appeal to Guido Mazzenta, in whose possession they then were, to restore the volumes of Leonardo's manuscripts so that he might be en- abled to present them to Philip II. Melzi's entreaties were successful in obtaining the return of seven volumes, and three of the others sub- sequently passed into Pompeo Leoni's possession on the death of one of the Mazzentas. Of the remaining three, one according to Maz- zenta's account was given to the Cardinal Federico Borromeo, and passed into the Ambrosian Library which he founded in 1603; another was given to the painter Ambrogio Figini, who afterwards bequeathed


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 45

it to Ercole Bianchi; it was subsequently in the po c session of Joseph Smith, English Consul at Venice, and with the sale of his effects in 175c) all record of it ends; the third was given to Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, and nothing further is known as to its history. Pro- fessor Govi has conjectured that it was perhaps burnt in one of the fires which occurred in the Royal Library at Turin in 1667 or 1679.

Some of the volumes of the manuscripts which had passed into the possession of Pompeo Leoni were afterwards cut in pieces by him in order to form one large volume from the leaves, together with some of the drawings which he had obtained from Melzi's villa at Vaprio. This volume, known as the Codice Atlantico on account of its size, contains four hundred and two sheets and more than seventeen hun- dred drawings, and bears on its cover the inscription:

DISEGNI DI MACHINE ET

DELLE ARTI SECRETI

ET ALTRE COSE

DI LEONARDO DA VINCI

RACOLTI DA

POMPEO LEO

NI

Apparently the collector's instinct proved stronger in Pompeo Leoni than his original intention. He was subsequently in Madrid, where he was engaged in executing bronzes for the royal tombs in the Escurial, but there is no evidence to show that he ever parted with any of Leo- nardo's manuscripts to Philip II. The Codice Atlantico remained in his possession until his death in 1610, and then passed to his heir, Polidoro Calchi, by whom it was sold in 1625 to Count Galeazzo Arconati. Two of Leonardo's manuscripts in Pompeo Leoni's pos- session were included among his effects sold after his death at Madrid, and were then bought by Don Juan de Espina. It would seem probable that others of the manuscripts in Pompeo Leoni's possession descended to his heir Calchi, and from him passed into the possession of Count Arconati, because the latter in 1636 presented twelve volumes of Leonardo's manuscripts to the Ambrosian Library at Milan. The vol- ume which Mazzenta had given to Cardinal Federico Borromeo had already been placed there in 1603, and in 1674 yet another volume of


46 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

Leonardo's manuscripts was added by the gift of Count Orazio Arch- inti.

Of the list of twelve manuscripts as described in Count Archonati's deed of gift to the Ambrosian Library, the second was afterwards lost, and the fifth was removed from the Library — it being, as the descrip- tion shows, identical with the manuscript of Leonardo's which in about the year 1750 was bought from a certain Gaetano Caccia of Novara by Carlo Trivulzio and is now in the possession of Prince Trivulzio at Milan. The remaining ten manuscripts of the Arconati donation, to- gether with the two from Cardinal Federico Borromeo and Count Archinti respectively, were in the Ambrosian Library until 1796. There was then also with them a manuscript of ten sheets which treated of the eye, the provenance of which is unknown, but which it is con- jectured had been substituted for the manuscript now in the collection of Prince Trivulzio. These thirteen manuscripts were all removed to Paris in the year 1796 in pursuance of the decree of Bonaparte as Gen- eral-in-Chief of the Army of Italy of 30 Floreal An. IV (May 19th, 1796), providing for the appointment of an agent who should select such pictures and other works of art as might be worthy of transmis- sion to France. The words of the decree authorizing and justifying the removal arrest attention by the naivety of their i$ptS. 'All men of gen- ius', it ran, 'all who have attained distinction in the republic of letters are French, whatever be the country which has given them birth'. (Tous les hommes de genie, tous ceux qui ont obtenu un rang dis- tingue dans la republique des lettres, sont Francais, quelque soit le pays qui les ait vus naitre.)

The Codice Atlantico was in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris in August 1796. The other twelve volumes of the manuscripts were de- posited in the Institut de France. In 1815 the Austrian Ambassador, as representing Lombardy, made application for the return of all the Leonardo manuscripts. The request was complied with as regards the Codice Atlantico, which was then restored to the Ambrosian Library at Milan, but the twelve volumes in the library of the Institut de France were apparently overlooked, and there they have since re- mained.

On their arrival in France the manuscripts were described by J. B. Venturi, who then marked them with the lettering whereby they have


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 47

subsequently been distinguished. He gave their total number as four- teen, because MS. B contained an appendix of eighteen pages which could be separated and considered as the fourteenth volume.

This manuscript is identical with No. 3 in the Arconati donation, which is described as having at the end a small 'volumetto' of eighteen pages containing various mathematical figures and drawings of birds. This 'volumetto' seems in fact to have been treated somewhat as Ven- turi suggests by Count Guglielmo Libri, who frequently had access to the manuscripts in the Institut de France in the early part of last cen- tury, and who apparently abstracted it at some time previous to 1848, at which date its loss was discovered. In 1868 it was sold by Libri to Count Giacomo Manzoni of Lugo, and in 1892 it was acquired from Count Manzoni's heirs by M. SabachnikofT, by whom it was published in the following year as 11 Codice sul Volo degli Uccelli (edit. Piumati e SabachnikofT, Paris, 1893). It has subsequently been presented to the Royal Library at Turin.

Two other manuscripts by Leonardo, of sixty-eight and twenty-six pages respectively, now in the Bibliotheque Nationale (Nos. 2038 and 2037), must have originally formed part of the manuscripts A and B of the Institut de France. They tally both in the dimensions of the pages and in the subjects of which they treat, and their total numbers added to those of Manuscripts A and B respectively do not amount to quite the full numbers of the leaves which these two manuscripts possessed in 1636, as described in the list of the Arconati donation.

These two manuscripts in the Bibliotheque Nationale were formerly in the collection of the late Earl of Ashburnham, who purchased them in 1875 from Count Libri, from whom, as we have seen, Count Man- zoni had purchased the 'volumetto' 'On the flight of birds'. The muti- lation of Manuscripts A and B of the Institut de France and the removal of the 'volumetto' were first discovered in the year 1848. It is impossible to avoid the inference that the action in each case was the work of Count Libri. The two manuscripts of the Bibliotheque Na- tionale have been included in the edition of the manuscripts of the Institut de France published in facsimile, with a transcript and French translation by M. Ravaisson-Mollien, in six volumes (Paris, 1880-91).

The Codice Atlantico has also been published in facsimile, with a transcript, under the direction of the Accademia dei Lincei, at Rome


48 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

(1894-1904); and the manuscript in the possession of Prince Trivulzio, which as we have seen was formerly in the Ambrosian Library as one of the Arconati bequest, has been published in facsimile with a tran- script by Signor Beltrami (Milan, 1892).

We may now consider the Arconati bequest from another standpoint. The count's munificence was commemorated in the following in- scription which was set in marble on the wall of the staircase of the Ambrosian Library:

LEONARDI . VINCII

MANU . ET . INGENIO . CELEBERRIMI

LUCUBRATIONUM . VOLUMIXA . XII

HABES . O . CIVIS

GALEAZ . ARCONATUS

INTER . OPTIMATES . TUOS

BONARUM . ARTIUM . CULTOR . OPTIMUS

REPUDIATIS . REGIO . AMMO

QUOS . ANGLIAE . REX . PRO . UNO . TANTUM . OFFEREBAT

AUREIS . TER . MILLE . HISPANICIS

NE . TTBI . TANTT . VIRI . DEESSET . ORNAMENTUM

B1BLIOTHECAE . AMBROSIANAE . OONSECRAVTT

NE . TANTI . LARGITORIS . DEESSET . MEMORIA

QUEM . SANGUIS . QUEM . MORES

MAGNO . FEDERICO . FUNDATORI

ADSTRINGUNT

BIBLIOTHECAE . CONSERVATORES

POSUERE

ANNO MDCXXXVII

'The glorious (boasting) inscription' — so described in the Memoirs of John Evelyn — has naturally attracted the attention of English travel- lers. Evelyn records his failure to obtain a sight of the manuscripts when he visited Milan in 1646, owing to the keeper of them being away and having taken the keys, but he states that he had been informed by the Lord Marshal, the Earl of Arundel, that all of them were small except one book, a huge folio containing four hundred leaves 'full of scratches of Indians', and 'whereas', he says, 'the inscription pretends that our King Charles had offered ^1000 for them, my lord himself told me that it was he who treated with Galeazzo for himself in the name and by the permission of the King, and that the Duke of Feria,


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 49

who was then Governor, should make the bargain: but my lord having seen them since did not think them of so much worth'. The inscription, however, does not mention the name of the King. Addison, in his Remarks on Several Parts of Italy in describing his visit to Milan in 1701, mentions the Ambrosian Library as containing 'a manuscript of Leonardus Vincius, wich King James I could not procure, tho' he profer'd for it three thousand Spanish pistoles'; and the monarch in question is also stated to have been James I in the fuller record of the Arconati donation. The Duke of Feria was Governor of Milan from 1610 to 1633, during a part of the reign of both monarchs.

Apparently, however, the manuscripts only passed into the possession cf Count Arconati in 1625, the year of the death of James I, and this renders it probable that the monarch referred to was Charles I. But the question of under which king has relatively little import, and with regard to the inscription, it may perhaps be well to recall the dictum of Dr. Johnson that 'in lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath'. The only inference that can fairly be drawn from the present instance is that the manuscripts by Leonardo now in the Royal Collection at Windsor did not form part of the Arconati Collection. This is also confirmed by the testimony of Lord Arundel, as recounted by Evelyn. That some of the Leonardo manuscripts at Windsor were once in the possession of Lord Arundel is established by the fact of the existence of an engraving of one of the drawings by Hollar, whom Lord Arundel brought from Prague and established in London. It is inscribed Leo- nardus da Vinci sic olim delineavit. W. Hollar fecit ex collectione Arundeliana'.

That some of these Windsor manuscripts were also formerly in the Collection of Pompeo Leoni is clearly shown by the fact that one of the volumes is inscribed 'Disegni di Leonardo da Vinci Restaurati da Pompeo Leoni'.

Two of the manuscripts in Pompeo Leoni's collection, as already stated, were purchased in Madrid after his death by Don Juan de Espina; and Mr. Alfred Marks — from whose important contributions to this branch of the subject in the Athenaeum of February 23rd and July 6th, 1878, many of the foregoing facts are derived — has shown that for one at any rate of these volumes, the Earl of Arundel was in treaty with Don Juan de Espina. The evidence of this is to be found


5 o RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

in a note by Endymion Porter, of the date 1629, printed by Mr. Sains- bury in his Original Unpublished Papers illustrative of the Life of Rubens: '. . . of such things as my Lord Embassador S r Francis Cot- tington is to send out of Spain for my Lord of Arondell; and not to forget the booke of drawings of Leonardo de Vinze w ch is in Don Juan de Espinas hands' (p. 294). Don Juan seems for a time to have proved obdurate, for Lord Arundel wrote on January 19th, 1636, to Lord Aston, who was then ambassador to Spain: 'I beseech y u be mindfull of D. Jhon de Spinas booke, if his foolish humour change' (p. 299). There the record breaks ofT. But as Mr. Marks truly ob- serves, there can be little doubt that eventually a change did take place in Don Juan's 'foolish humour'. At whatever date this happened the volume passed into Lord Arundel's possession. The earl may either have been negotiating for himself or for the King. If the former was the case, the book may presumably have passed into the Royal Col- lection at any time after 1646, when on the death of Lord Arundel his collections were partially dispersed. If it was not acquired previously the volume may have been bought in Holland by an agent of Charles II.

The earliest record of any of Leonardo's manuscripts or drawings as being in the royal possession occurs in an inventory found by Richter in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum, which states that some drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, marked with a cross, were delivered for Her Majesty's use in the year 1728.

Richter also cites a note in an inventory at Windsor Castle written at the beginning of last century, in which a drawing of Leonardo's is referred to as not having been in the volume compiled by Pompeo Leoni, but in one of the volumes in the Buonfigluolo Collection bought at Venice. Nothing apparently is known about the collection here re- ferred to, but the note is important as tending to prove that the manu- scripts by Leonardo now at Windsor were not all acquired at the same time, and did not all form part of Pompeo Leoni's collection.

The volume of manuscript now in the British Museum (Arundel MSS. 263) was certainly once in the possession of Lord Arundel. Nothing is known of its history previous to this, and whether or no it belonged to Pompeo Leoni, or was acquired by purchase from Don Juan de Espina, it would be idle to attempt to conjecture. Lord Arun- del had numerous agents in various parts of Europe, who were em-


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 51

ployed in collecting antiquities and works of art. It may, however, be noted that the greater part of his collection of manuscripts was acquired by the earl himself at Nuremberg in 1636, and had formerly belonged to Wilibald Pirkheimer, the humanist, the friend of Erasmus and Diirer. If any opportunity presented itself to him, Pirkheimer would certainly have possessed himself of any manuscript of Leonardo's; but to suppose him to have done so would be to assume that some of the manuscripts passed into other hands during Leonardo's lifetime, and this, though by no means impossible, is at any rate improbable.

The only other manuscripts by Leonardo now known to exist, with the exception of a few separate sheets of sketches and diagrams with explanatory text, are three small notebooks in the Forster Library at South Kensington, and a volume of seventy-two pages long in the possession of the Earls of Leicester at Holkham Hall but recently sold to Mr. Pierpont Morgan and believed to be now in New York. The former were acquired in Vienna for a small sum by the first Earl of Lytton and by him presented to Mr. Forster; the latter, according to a note on the title-page, once belonged to the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi, who was living in Rome at the beginning of the eighteenth century, it having presumably been acquired by the first (Holkham) Earl of Leicester, who spent some years in Rome previous to 1775, and there acquired many art treasures. Its previous history is unknown. This volume — a treatise on the nature of water — is in all probability that referred to by Rafaelle du Fresne in the sketch of Leonardo's life which appears in his edition of the Trattato della Pittura, published in Paris in 1651, where it is stated that 'the undertaking of the canal of the Martesana was the occasion of his writing a book on the nature, weight, and motion of water, full of a great number of drawings of various wheels and engines for mills to regulate the flow of water and raise it to a height'.

Of the manuscripts at Windsor which in the main are those that treat of anatomy, two volumes with facsimiles (60 leaves with about 400 drawings), transcripts and translations, have been issued by Messrs. Piumati and Sabachnikoff, Dell' Anatomia Fogli A (Paris, 1898), Fogli B (Turin, 1901), and the Quaderni d' Anatomia, six volumes (129 leaves with about 1050 drawings), by Messrs. Vangenstan, Fonahn and Hopstock (Oslo, 1911-16). Facsimiles of other leaves at Windsor


52 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

were issued by Rouveyre from plates prepared for the use of Sabach- nikoff. The manuscript in the British Museum and the three in the Forster Library were published in Rome by the Reale Commissione Vinciana at various dates from 1923-34, and an edition of the Leicester manuscript has been edited by Gerolamo Calvi (Milan, 1909).

As Leonardo's fame as a writer has chiefly rested upon the Treatise on Painting, it may not be out of place here to attempt to state the relation which this work bears to the original manuscripts.

The Treatise was first published by Rafaelle du Fresne, in Paris, in 1651, a French translation by Roland Freard, sieur de Chambrai, being also issued in the same year. Du Fresne derived his text from two old copies of MS. 834 in the Barberini Library, which manuscript has now presumably been transferred to the Vatican, at the same time as the other contents of that Library. One of these copies had been made by the Cavaliere Cassiano del Pozzo, who had given it in 1640 to M. Chanteloup, by whom it was presented to du Fresne for the preparation of his edition; the other was lent him for the same object by M. Thevenot.

Another edition of the Treatise was issued in 1817 by Guglielmo Manzi, who took as his text a manuscript in the Vatican Library (Cod. Vat. [Urbinas], 1270), which had formerly belonged to the Library of the Dukes of Urbino. This manuscript is by far the more complete of the two, Rve out of the eight books which it contains being wanting in the version followed by du Fresne. There are, however, many omissions in Manzi's edition, and the only adequate critical edition of the Vatican manuscript is that published by H. Ludwig (Leonardo da Vinci: Das Buck von der Malerei [Bd. xv-xviii of Quellenschriften fur Kunstgeschichte, etc., Edit. R. Eitelberger v. Edelberg], Vienna, 1882, Stuttgart, 1885). This contains the complete text, together with a German translation and commentary, and also an analysis of the dif- ferences which exist between the manuscripts in the Vatican and Leonardo's own manuscripts.

The Vatican manuscript probably dates from the beginning of the sixteenth century. It has been ascribed to some immediate pupil of Leonardo's, for choice either Francesco Melzi or Salai, but there is no evidence which can be held to establish this view. Its close connection with Leonardo is, however, indisputable. Whether this be the original


RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 53

form or no, the compilation was undoubtedly made previous to the dispersal of the manuscripts. About a quarter of the whole number of paragraphs (two hundred and twenty-five out of nine hundred and forty-four) are identical with passages in the extant manuscripts. Many others, which are not now to be found in any form in the manuscripts, yet carry their lineage incontestably, and would afford a sufficient proof, were this lacking in the chequered history of the various vol- umes, that some of the manuscripts have now perished: that, as with Leonardo as painter so also as writer, time has spared only the frag- ments of his work. The compiler of the Treatise on Painting had access to manuscripts, and also probably to sources of information as to the artist's intentions, of which we have no record. He presumably fol- lowed what he conceived to be the scheme of the artist's work. Never- theless, Leonardo cannot be adjudged directly or even indirectly responsible for the arrangement and divisions of this treatise, and it is somewhat difficult to credit him with the whole of the contents. Cer- tain of the passages read rather as repetitions by a pupil of a theme expounded by the master.

Did Leonardo himself ever give his work definite shape? Did he write a treatise on painting or only parts of one? In Fra Luca Pacioli's dedication to Ludovic Sforza of the De Diuina Proportione , dated February 9th, 1498, he speaks of Leonardo as having finished 'il Libro de Pictura et movimenti humani', and Dr. Ludwig, who apparently accepts this statement, puts forward the supposition that the treatise was in the possession of Ludovic and probably became lost at the time of the French invasion of Milan.

On this same occasion, according to both Vasari and Lomazzo, there also perished a treatise by Leonardo on the anatomy of the horse v which he had written in the course of his studies for the Sforza statue.

Vasari, as we have seen, mentions some writings by Leonardo 'which treat of painting and of the methods of drawing and colouring' as be- ing then in the possession of a Milanese painter, who had recently been to see him in Florence to discuss their publication, and had taken them to Rome in order to carry his intention into effect, though with what result Vasari could not say. These writings are stated to be 'in char- acters written with the left hand, backwards', and therefore they cannot possibly be identical either with the Barberini or the Vatican manu-


54 RECORD OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

scripts. Seeing that Vasari wrote during Melzi's lifetime, it is reason- able to infer that this manuscript had at an early date become separated from the others and therefore did not form part of the general mass of the manuscripts which passed into Melzi's possession at Leonardo's death, since Vasari states that he kept these as though they were relics. As to whether this manuscript was identical with the work to which Fra Luca Pacioli referred, there is no sufficient evidence on which to form an opinion. Moreover, the Frate's evidence must not be inter- preted too literally. The words of the dedication of the De Divina Proportione, 'tutta la sua ennea massa a libre circa 200000 ascende', would naturally also suggest that the statue of Francesco Sforza was actually cast in bronze, but the general weight of evidence, including that of Leonardo's own letters, forbids any such supposition. So, in like manner, it may perhaps have been that in the case of the Treatise on Painting he may have spoken of the rough drafts and fragments as though they were the completed work.

The work itself grew continually in the mind of the author. It was moulded and recast times without number, as his purpose changed and expanded in his progress along each new avenue of study that revealed afresh the kinship of art and nature. It is certain that he never wrote 'finis'. It is at any rate possible that he never halted in investk gation for so long a time as would be necessary to arrange and classify what he had written — that he left all this to a more convenient season. Genius, we should remember, is not apt to be synthetic.




LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

In the references to the manuscripts which follow these abbreviations occur :

C.A. = Codice Atlantico. Tr. = Codice Trivulziano.

A, B, etc., to I, and K, L, M = MSS. A, B, etc., to I and K, L, M of

the Library of the Institut de France. MSS. 2037 and 2038 Bib. Nat. = Nos. 2037 and 2038, Italian MSS.,

Bibliotheque Nationale. B.M. = Arundel MSS., No. 263, British Museum. Forster I, II, III = Forster Bequest MSS. I, II, III, Victoria and Albert

Museum. Leic. = MS. formerly in possession of Earl of Leicester, now of Mr.

Pierpont Morgan. Sul Volo = MS. 'Sul Volo degli Uccelli' in Royal Library, Turin. Sul Volo (F.M.)='Sul Volo' Fogli Mancanti. Fatio Collection,

Geneva. Fogli A and B = Dell' Anatomia Fogli A and B, Royal Library,

Windsor. Quaderni I-VI = Quaderni dAnatomia I-VI, Royal Library, Windsor. R. = J. P. Richter, Literary Wor\s of L. da V.


PROEM

If indeed I have no power to quote from authors as they have, it is a far bigger and more worthy thing to read by the light of experience, which is the instructress of their masters. They strut about puffed up and pompous, decked out and adorned not with their own labours but by those of others, and they will not even allow me my own. And if they despise me who am an inventor how much more should blame be given to themselves, who are not inventors but trumpeters and reciters of the works of others?


Those who are inventors and interpreters between Nature and Man as compared with the reciters and trumpeters of the works of others, are to be considered simply as is an object in front of a mirror in comparison with its image when seen in the mirror, the one being something in itself, the other nothing: people whose debt to nature is small, for it seems only by chance that they wear human form, and but for this one might class them with the herds of beasts.

c.a. 117 r. b

Seeing that I cannot choose any subject of great utility or pleasure, because my predecessors have already taken as their own all useful and necessary themes, I will do like one who, because of his poverty, is the last to arrive at the fair, and not being able otherwise to provide himself, chooses all the things which others have already looked over and not taken, but refused as being of little value. With these despised and rejected wares — the leavings of many buyers — I will load my modest pack, and therewith take my course, distributing, not indeed amid the great cities, but among the mean hamlets, and taking such reward as befits the things I offer.

I am fully aware that the fact of my not being a man of letters may cause certain arrogant persons to think that they may with reason

57


58 PROEM

censure me, alleging that I am a man ignorant of book-learning. Fool- ish folk! Do they not know that I might retort by saying, as did Marius to the Roman Patricians: 'They who themselves go about adorned in the labour of others will not permit me my own'? They will say that because of my lack of book-learning, I cannot properly express what I desire to treat of. Do they not know that my subjects require for their exposition experience rather than the words of others ? And since experience has been the mistress of whoever has written well, I take her as my mistress, and to her in all points make my appeal.

Many will believe that they can with reason censure me, alleging that my proofs are contrary to the authority of certain men who are held in great reverence by their inexperienced judgments, not taking into account that my conclusions were arrived at as a result of simple and plain experience, which is the true mistress.

These rules enable you to discern the true from the false, and thus to set before yourselves only things possible and of more moderation; and they forbid you to use a cloak of ignorance, which will bring about that you attain to no result and in despair abandon yourself to melancholy.

The natural desire of good men is knowledge.

I know that many will call this a useless work, and they will be those of whom Demetrius said that he took no more account of the wind that produced the words in their mouths than of the wind that came out of their hinder parts: men whose only desire is for material riches and luxury and who are entirely destitute of the desire of wis- dom, the sustenance and the only true riches of the soul. For as the soul is more worthy than the body so much are the soul's riches more worthy than those of the body. And often when I see one of these men take this work in hand I wonder whether he will not put it to his nose like the ape, and ask me whether it is something to eat.

c.a. 119 v. a

Begun in Florence in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli, on the 22nd day of March, 1508. This will be a collection without order, made up of many sheets which I have copied here, hoping afterwards to


PROEM 59

arrange them in order in their proper places according to the subjects of which they treat; and I believe that before I am at the end of this I shall have to repeat the same thing several times; and therefore, O reader, blame me not, because the subjects are many, and the memory cannot retain them and say 'this I will not write because I have already written it'. And if I wished to avoid falling into this mistake it would be necessary, in order to prevent repetition, that on every occasion when I wished to transcribe a passage I should always read over all the preceding portion, and this especially because long periods of time elapse between one time of writing and another. b.m. i r.



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