Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

To claim that I have read this entire tomb would be lying. It would take a lot of time which I don’t have to properly read this.   The sheer intellect  of Edward MacCurdy – to read through and sort every one of Leonardo’s surviving notebooks (et alone decipher and then translate them) – must surely rival the famous inventor himself.

These notebooks contain everything from poignant statement to the reader,  great essays on gravity and momentum, jottings on books to read, systematic instructions on the dissection of arteries, itinerary of deceased estates that he managed – even every day ‘to-do’ lists. There is nothing MacCurdy hasn’t catalogued.

As I said, I have not The (entire) Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. I would say it is one fifth read, two thirds skimmed. I think the best way to evaluate a life of work on this magnitude can best be done is Leo’s own words. And seeing as there is barely anything Leo didn’t think about or comment on, I will consult the index now and provide you with (some of) his thoughts the nature of water, the children of painter’s and punctuality:


Water is that which serves the vital humours of the arid earth; and the cause which moves it through the veins is just that which moves the humours in all the different species of animated bodies.
– pg 739

A painter was asked why he had made his children so ugly, when his figures were dead things he had made so beautiful. His reply was that he made his pictures by day and his children by night.
– pg 1059

Alarum -clock [with drawing]
A clock to be used by those who grudge the wasting of time
And this is how it works: – when as much water has been poured through the funnel into the receiver as there is in the opposite balance this balance rises and pours its water into the first receiver; and this being doubled in weight jerks violently upwards the feet of the sleeper, who is thus awakened and goes to his work.
– pg 793


This is a collection I would dearly love to own and have on my own shelf. An original 1939 edition would be nice too…Don’t feel pressured to read/understand it all at once. This is two lifetimes’ work – chill.

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2014 by in Non-Fiction and tagged , , , , , , .

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