The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci

How much do I want to read more? 8/10

The Preface is long and mostly boring so I just kept skimming. But it kept me interested though.
I found an unepected pleasure to read Da Vinci words in Part 1 (Philosophy). There's matter to reflect upon. Each paragraph invite to a different reflection.
I am willing to read it all, at least for this "chapter".
We all have such reflection in our mind. It's what we live by. Our values, our beliefs. And it's interesting to see those of an excpetional mind. It's somehow fascinating that words can capture it and restore it few hundred years later to the reader.

Gathering and editing more than 5,000 original manuscript sheet.
Leonardo called his notebooks "a collection without order taken from many papers which I have copied here, hoping afterward to arrange them in order, each in its place, according to the subjects treated of." He died before he could carry out this plan.

The notebooks Ithus reveal the philosopher, scientist, painter, sculptor, astronomer, architect, geographer, inventor, musician, "perhaps the most richly gifted by nature among all the sons of men."


Volume 1


"This gentleman has written of anatomy with such detail, showing by illustrations 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, ofdivers machines and ofother matters."

How he disposed of his time would be an enigma.
For, of this man who did a few works of art most divinely well, it may be said that he took all know- ledge 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.

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 animals have little but that little is useful and true· and better is a small and certain thing than a great falsehood."
"Neither promise yourself things nor do things, if you see that when deprived of them they will cause you material suffering."
"Do not set up for yourself any new necessities."

It may seem something of an enigma that such activities should have emanated from the brain of one who has stigmatized warfare as "bestial madness".
the use of the bombing aeroplane, the use of poison gas, the tank and the submarine - all afford examples of his prescience. with such precision ofscientific and mechanical detail as would be natural in one who held.

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 Einstein.
'every weight tends to fall towards the centre by the shortest way'

Alike as painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and musician, he aroused the wonder and admiration of his contemporaries.

He has been spoken of as the forerunner of Francis Bacon, ofJames Watt, of Sir Isaac Newton, of William Harvey.

"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 authority"
"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 some few veins, while, in order to obtain an exact and complete knowledge 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"

"a good painter has two chief objects to paint, man and the inten- tion ofhis soul; the former is easy the latter hard"

"tears c01ne from the heart not from the brain"
"As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death."

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.
"each mind keeping as a solitary prisoner its own dream of a world"
Concentration of the mind comes by solitude;
"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."

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


Genius, we should remember, is not apt to be synthetic.


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 ofa 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.

Do they not know that my subjects require for their exposition experience ratht:;r 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.

The natural desire of good men is knowledge.
I know that many will call this a useless work, and they will be those ofwhom Demetrius said that he took no more account ofthe 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 wisdom, 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.

1- Philosophy

'Nature is full of infinite causes which were never set forth in experience.'

We have no lack of system or device to measure and to parcel out these poor days of ours; wherein it should be our pleasure that they be not squandered or suffered to pass away in vain, and without meed of honour, leaving no record of themselves in the minds of men; to the end that this our poor course may not be sped in vain.

Our judgment does not reckon in their exact and proper order things which have come to pass at different periods of time; for many things which happened many years ago will seem nearly related to the present, and many things that are recent will seem ancient, extending back to the far-off period -9f our youth. And so it is with the eye, with regard to distant things, which when illumined by the sun seem near to the eye, while many things which are near seem far off.

Supren1e happiness will be the greatest cause of misery, and the perfection of wisdom the occasion of folly.

Every part is disposed to unite with the whole, that it may thereby escape from its own incompleteness.

The soul desires to dwell with the body because without the members of that body it can neither act nor feel.

The thoughts turn towards hope.

O·Time, thou that consumest all things! 0 envious age, thou destroyest all things and devourest all things with the hard teeth of the years, little by little, in slow death! Helen, when she looked 1n her mirror and saw the withered wrinkles which old age had made in her face, wept, and wondered to herself why ever she had twice been
carried away.

The age as it flies glides secretly and deceives one and another; nothing is more fleeting than the years, but he who sows virtue reaps honour.

Wrongfully do men lament the flight of time, accusing it of being too swift, and not perceiving that its period is yet sufficient; but good memory wherewith Nature has endowed us causes everything long past to seem present.

Whoever would see in what state the soul dwells within the body, let him mark how this body uses its daily habitation, for if this be confused and without order the body will be kept 1n disorder and confusion by the soul.

O thou that sleepest, what is sleep? Sleep is an image ofdeath. Oh, why not let your work be such that after death you become an image of immortality; as in life you become when sleeping like unto the hapless dead.

Man and the animals are merely a passage and channel for food, a tomb for other animals, a haven for the dead, giving life by the death of others, a coffer full of corruption.

Behold a thing which the more need there is of it is the more rejected: this is advice, listened to unwillingly by those who have most need of it, that is by the ignorant. Behold a thing which the more you have fear of it and the more you flee from it comes the nearer to you: this is misery, which the more you flee from it makes you the more wretched and without rest.

Experience the interpreter between resourceful nature and the human species teaches that that which this nature works out among mortals constrained by necessity cannot operate in any other way than that in which reason which is its rudder teaches it to work.

To the ambitious, whom neither the boon oflife, nor the beauty of the world suffice to content, it comes as penance that life with them is squandered, and that they possess neither the benefits nor the beauty of the world.

The air as soon as there is light is filled with innumerable images to which the eye serves as a magnet.

In youth acquire that which may requite you for the deprivations of old age; and if you are mindful that old age has wisdom for its food, you will so exert yourself in youth, that your old age will not lack sustenance.

There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.

Experience is never at fault; it is only your judgment that is in error in promising itself such results from experience as are not caused by our experiments. For having given a beginning, what follows from it must necessarily be a natural development of such a beginning, unless it has been subject to a contrary influence, while, if it is affected by any contrary influence, the result which ought to follow from the aforesaid beginning will be found to partake of this contrary influence in a greater or less degree in proportion as the said influence is more or less powerful than the aforesaid beginning.

Experience is not at fault; it is only our judgment that is in error 1n promising itself from experience things which are not within her power.
Wrongly do men cry out against expenence and with bitter reproaches accuse her of deceitfulness. Let experience alone, and rather turn your complaints against your own ignorance, which causes you to be so carried away by your vain and insensate desires as to expect from experience things which are not within her power!
Wrongly do men cry out against innocent experience, accusing her often of deceit and lying demonstrations!

The body of the earth is of the nature of a fish, a grampus or sperm whale, because it draws water as its breath instead of air.

How the movements of the eye of the ray of the sun and of the mind are the swiftest that can be:
The sun so soon as ever it appears in the east instantly proceeds with its rays to the west; and these are made up of three incorporeal forces, namely radiance, heat, and the image of the shape which produces these.
The eye so soon as ever it is opened beholds all the stars of our hemisphere.
The mind passes in an instant from the east to the west; and all the great incorporeal things resemble these very closely in their speed.

When you wish to produce a result by means ofan instrument do not allow yourself to complicate it by introducing many subsidiary parts but follow the briefest way possible, and do not act as those do who when they do not know how to express a thing in its own proper vocabulary proceed
by a method ofcircumlocution and with great prolixity and confusion.

Two weaknesses leaning together create a strength. Therefore the half of the world leaning against the other half becomes firm.

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

Every part of an element separated from its mass desires to return to it by the shortest way.

Nothingness has no centre, and its boundaries are nothingness.
My opponent says that nothingness and a vacuum are one and the same thing, having indeed two separate names by which they are called, but not existing separately in nature.
The reply is that whenever there exists a vacuum there will also be the space which surrounds it, but nothingness exists apart from occupa- tion ofspace; it follows that nothingness and a vacuum are not the same, for the one is divisible to infinity, and nothingness cannot be divided because nothing can be less than it is; and if you were to take part from it this part would be equal to the whole, and the whole to the part

Aristotle in the Third [Book] of the Ethics: man is worthy of praise and blame solely in respect of such actions as it is within his power to do or to abstain from.

He who expects from experience what she does not possess takes leave of reason.

For what reason do such animals as sow their seed sow with pleasure and the one who awaits receives with pleasure and brings forth with pain?

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.

The knowledge of past time and of the position of the earth is the adornment and the food of human minds.

Among the great things which are found among us the existence of Nothing is the greatest. This dwells in time, and stretches its limbs into the past and the future, and with these takes to itself all works that are past and those that are to come, both of nature and of the animals, and possesses nothing of the indivisible present. It does not however extend to the essence of anything.

The chief good is wisdom: the chief evil is the suffering of the body. Seeing therefore that we are made up of two things, namely of soul and body, ofwhich the first is the better and the inferior is the body, wisdom belongs to the better part and the chief evil belongs to the worse part and is the worst. The best thing in the soul is wisdom, and even so the worst thing in the body is pain. As therefore the chief evil is bodily pain, so wisdom is the chief good of the soul, that is of the wise man, and nothing else can be compared to it.

The lover is drawn by the thing loved, as the sense is by that which it perceives, and it unites with it, and they become one and the same thing. The work is the first thing born of the'union; if the thing that is loved be base, the lover becomes base. When the thing taken into union is in harmony with that which receives it, there follow rejoicing and pleasure and satisfaction. When the lover is united to that which is loved it finds rest there; when the burden is laid down there it finds rest. The thing is known with our intellect.

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

Where there is most power of feeling, there of martyrs is the greatest martyr.

All our knowledge originates in our sensibilities.

Science, knowledge of the things that are possible present and past; prescience, knowledge of the things which may come to pass.

Nothing can be written as the result of new researches.

To enjoy - to love a thing for its own sake and for no other reason.

The senses are of the earth, the reason stands apart from them in contemplation.

Life well spent is long.
In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes: so with time present.

Every action must necessarily find expression in movement.
To know and to will are two operations of the human mind.
To discern to judge to reflect are actions of the human mind.
Our body is subject to heaven, and heaven is subject to the spirit.

Many times one and the same thing is drawn by two violences, namely necessity and power.