Sacred Texts  Age of Reason 

The Da Vinci Notebooks, plate 18, detail (Public Domain Image)

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

by Jean Paul Richter


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Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably the central figure of the Renaissance, has long been considered by many a man of mystery. This is in spite of the fact that we have an unparalleled set of documents which illuminate his thought processes, interests, and deepest beliefs. We have access to hundreds of pages of his notes, jottings, sketches, doodles, and musings, including lists of books he read and even scraps of financial records. All of the known Da Vinci papers as of the mid-19th century are included here in this magnificent collection.

What emerges is the picture of a rationalist. For instance, Da Vinci was one of the first to question the Biblical account of the Flood. He saw the fossils of sea creatures on the tops of mountains and concluded that these could not have been deposited in a forty day flood. He looked at river valleys and did the math; they could only have been eroded over huge horizons of time.

Da Vinci put as much thought into his art as he did his science. Practically half of the writings here relate to detailed studies of the natural world which informed his work as an artist.

This is the first time that the Da Vinci notebooks have appeared on the Internet with all of the images in context. This electronic edition is based on the Project Gutenberg etext, with extensive additional work at sacred-texts, including scanning of missing material, formatting to match the copytext and hyperlinking.

Vol. I

Title Page
Contents of Volume I
List of Illustrations in Volume I
I. Prolegomena and General Introduction to the Book on Painting
II. Linear Perspective
III. Six Books on Light and Shade
Plates II-XXXV
IV. Perspective of Disappearance
V. Theory of Colours
VI. Perspective of Colour and Aerial Perspective
VII. On the Proportions and on the Movements of the Human Figure
VIII. Botany for Painters and Elements of Landscape Painting
IX. The Practice of Painting
X. Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations
Duplicate Plates (vol. I)

Vol. II

Title Page
Contents of Volume II
List of Illustrations in Volume II.
XI. The Notes on Sculpture
XII. Architectural Designs
XIII. Theoretical Writings on Architecture
XIV. Anatomy, Zoology and Physiology
XV. Astronomy
XVI. Physical Geography
XVII. Topographical Notes
XVIII. Naval Warfare. Mechanical Appliances. Music.
XIX. Philosophical Maxims. Morals. Polemics and Speculations
XX. Humorous Writings
XXI. Letters. Personal Records. Dated Notes
XXII. Miscellaneous Notes
Duplicate Plates (vol. II)