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XIV. Anatomy, Zoology and Physiology Index
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p. 107



A general introduction

I wish to work miracles;--it may be that I shall possess less than other men of more peaceful lives, or than those who want to grow rich in a day. I may live for a long time in great poverty, as always happens, and to all eternity will happen, to alchemists, the would-be creators of gold and silver, and to engineers who would have dead water stir itself into life and perpetual motion, and to those supreme fools, the necromancer and the enchanter.


And you, who say that it would be better to watch an anatomist at work than to see these drawings, you would be right, if it were possible to observe all the things which are demonstrated in such drawings in a single figure, in which you, with all your cleverness, will not see nor obtain knowledge of more than some few veins, to obtain a true and perfect knowledge of which I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying

p. 108

all the other members, and removing the very minutest particles of the flesh by which these veins are surrounded, without causing them to bleed, excepting the insensible bleeding of the capillary veins; and as one single body would not last so long, since it was necessary to proceed with several bodies by degrees, until I came to an end and had a complete knowledge; this I repeated twice, to learn the differences [59].


And if you should have a love for such things you might be prevented by loathing, and if that did not prevent you, you might be deterred by the fear of living in the night hours in the company of those corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to see. And if this did not prevent you, perhaps you might not be able to draw so well as is necessary for such a demonstration; or, if you had the skill in drawing, it might not be combined with knowledge of perspective; and if it were so, you might not understand the methods of geometrical demonstration and the method of the calculation of forces and of the strength of the muscles; patience also may be wanting, so that you lack perseverance. As to whether all these things were found in me or not  415 , the hundred and twenty books composed by me will give verdict Yes or No. In these I have been hindered neither by avarice nor negligence, but simply by want of time. Farewell [89].


107:413 23: The following seems to be directed against students of painting and young artists rather than against medical men and anatomists.

108:414 : Lines 1-59 and 60-89 are written in two parallel columns. When we here find Leonardo putting himself in the same category as the Alchemists and Necromancers, whom he elsewhere mocks at so bitterly, it is evidently meant ironically. In the same way Leonardo, in the introduction to the Books on Perspective sets himself with transparent satire on a level with other writers on the subject.

108:415 84: Leonardo frequently, and perhaps habitually, wrote in note books of a very small size and only moderately thick; in most of those which have been preserved undivided, each contains less than fifty leaves. Thus a considerable number of such volumes must have gone to make up a volume of the bulk of the 'Codex Atlanticus' which now contains nearly 1200 detached leaves. In the passage under consideration, which was evidently written at a late period of his life, Leonardo speaks of his Manuscript note-books as numbering 12O; but we should hardly be justified in concluding from this passage that the greater part of his Manuscripts were now missing (see Prolegomena, Vol. I, pp. 5-7).

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