The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Complete
by Leonardo Da Vinci
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Observations in support of the hypothesis (963-969).


The waters circulate with constant motion from the utmost depths of the sea to the highest summits of the mountains, not obeying the nature of heavy matter; and in this case it acts as does the blood of animals which is always moving from the sea of the heart and flows to the top of their heads; and here it is that veins burst—as one may see when a vein bursts in the nose, that all the blood from below rises to the level of the burst vein. When the water rushes out of a burst vein in the earth it obeys the nature of other things heavier than the air, whence it always seeks the lowest places. [7] These waters traverse the body of the earth with infinite ramifications.

[Footnote: The greater part of this passage has been given as No. 849 in the section on Anatomy.]


The same cause which stirs the humours in every species of animal body and by which every injury is repaired, also moves the waters from the utmost depth of the sea to the greatest heights.


It is the property of water that it constitutes the vital human of this arid earth; and the cause which moves it through its ramified veins, against the natural course of heavy matters, is the same property which moves the humours in every species of animal body. But that which crowns our wonder in contemplating it is, that it rises from the utmost depths of the sea to the highest tops of the mountains, and flowing from the opened veins returns to the low seas; then once more, and with extreme swiftness, it mounts again and returns by the same descent, thus rising from the inside to the outside, and going round from the lowest to the highest, from whence it rushes down in a natural course. Thus by these two movements combined in a constant circulation, it travels through the veins of the earth.



The water of the ocean cannot make its way from the bases to the tops of the mountains which bound it, but only so much rises as the dryness of the mountain attracts. And if, on the contrary, the rain, which penetrates from the summit of the mountain to the base, which is the boundary of the sea, descends and softens the slope opposite to the said mountain and constantly draws the water, like a syphon [Footnote 11: Cicognola, Syphon. See Vol. I, Pl. XXIV, No. 1.] which pours through its longest side, it must be this which draws up the water of the sea; thus if s n were the surface of the sea, and the rain descends from the top of the mountain a to n on one side, and on the other sides it descends from a to m, without a doubt this would occur after the manner of distilling through felt, or as happens through the tubes called syphons [Footnote 17: Cicognola, Syphon. See Vol. I, Pl. XXIV, No. 1.]. And at all times the water which has softened the mountain, by the great rain which runs down the two opposite sides, would constantly attract the rain a n, on its longest side together with the water from the sea, if that side of the mountain a m were longer than the other a n; but this cannot be, because no part of the earth which is not submerged by the ocean can be lower than that ocean.



It is quite evident that the whole surface of the ocean—when there is no storm—is at an equal distance from the centre of the earth, and that the tops of the mountains are farther from this centre in proportion as they rise above the surface of that sea; therefore if the body of the earth were not like that of man, it would be impossible that the waters of the sea—being so much lower than the mountains—could by their nature rise up to the summits of these mountains. Hence it is to be believed that the same cause which keeps the blood at the top of the head in man keeps the water at the summits of the mountains.

[Footnote: This conception of the rising of the blood, which has given rise to the comparison, was recognised as erroneous by Leonardo himself at a later period. It must be remembered that the MS. A, from which these passages are taken, was written about twenty years earlier than the MS. Leic. (Nos. 963 and 849) and twenty-five years before the MS. W. An. IV.

There is, in the original a sketch with No. 968 which is not reproduced. It represents a hill of the same shape as that shown at No. 982. There are veins, or branched streams, on the side of the hill, like those on the skull Pl. CVIII, No. 4]



I say that just as the natural heat of the blood in the veins keeps it in the head of man,—for when the man is dead the cold blood sinks to the lower parts—and when the sun is hot on the head of a man the blood increases and rises so much, with other humours, that by pressure in the veins pains in the head are often caused; in the same way veins ramify through the body of the earth, and by the natural heat which is distributed throughout the containing body, the water is raised through the veins to the tops of mountains. And this water, which passes through a closed conduit inside the body of the mountain like a dead thing, cannot come forth from its low place unless it is warmed by the vital heat of the spring time. Again, the heat of the element of fire and, by day, the heat of the sun, have power to draw forth the moisture of the low parts of the mountains and to draw them up, in the same way as it draws the clouds and collects their moisture from the bed of the sea.


That many springs of salt water are found at great distances from the sea; this might happen because such springs pass through some mine of salt, like that in Hungary where salt is hewn out of vast caverns, just as stone is hewn.

[Footnote: The great mine of Wieliczka in Galicia, out of which a million cwt. of rock-salt are annually dug out, extends for 3000 metres from West to East, and 1150 metres from North to South.]



On the way in which the sources of rivers are fed.



The body of the earth, like the bodies of animals, is intersected with ramifications of waters which are all in connection and are constituted to give nutriment and life to the earth and to its creatures. These come from the depth of the sea and, after many revolutions, have to return to it by the rivers created by the bursting of these springs; and if you chose to say that the rains of the winter or the melting of the snows in summer were the cause of the birth of rivers, I could mention the rivers which originate in the torrid countries of Africa, where it never rains—and still less snows—because the intense heat always melts into air all the clouds which are borne thither by the winds. And if you chose to say that such rivers, as increase in July and August, come from the snows which melt in May and June from the sun's approach to the snows on the mountains of Scythia [Footnote 9: Scythia means here, as in Ancient Geography, the whole of the Northern part of Asia as far as India.], and that such meltings come down into certain valleys and form lakes, into which they enter by springs and subterranean caves to issue forth again at the sources of the Nile, this is false; because Scythia is lower than the sources of the Nile, and, besides, Scythia is only 400 miles from the Black sea and the sources of the Nile are 3000 miles distant from the sea of Egypt into which its waters flow.

The tide in estuaries.


Book 9, of the meeting of rivers and of their ebb and flow. The cause is the same in the sea, where it is caused by the straits of Gibraltar; and again it is caused by whirlpools.

[3] If two rivers meet together to form a straight line, and then below two right angles take their course together, the flow and ebb will happen now in one river and now in the other above their confluence, and principally if the outlet for their united volume is no swifter than when they were separate. Here occur 4 instances.

[Footnote: The first two lines of this passage have already been given as No. 957. In the margin, near line 3 of this passage, the text given as No. 919 is written.]

On the alterations, caused in the courses of rivers by their confluence (972-974).


When a smaller river pours its waters into a larger one, and that larger one flows from the opposite direction, the course of the smaller river will bend up against the approach of the larger river; and this happens because, when the larger river fills up all its bed with water, it makes an eddy in front of the mouth of the other river, and so carries the water poured in by the smaller river with its own. When the smaller river pours its waters into the larger one, which runs across the current at the mouth of the smaller river, its waters will bend with the downward movement of the larger river. [Footnote: In the original sketches the word Arno is written at the spot here marked A, at R. Rifredi, and at M. Mugnone.]


When the fulness of rivers is diminished, then the acute angles formed at the junction of their branches become shorter at the sides and wider at the point; like the current a n and the current d n, which unite in n when the river is at its greatest fulness. I say, that when it is in this condition if, before the fullest time, d n was lower than a n, at the time of fulness d n will be full of sand and mud. When the water d n falls, it will carry away the mud and remain with a lower bottom, and the channel a n finding itself the higher, will fling its waters into the lower, d n, and will wash away all the point of the sand-spit b n c, and thus the angle a c d will remain larger than the angle a n d and the sides shorter, as I said before.

[Footnote: Above the first sketch we find, in the original, this note: "Sopra il pote rubaconte alla torricella"; and by the second, which represents a pier of a bridge, "Sotto l'ospedal del ceppo."]




In proportion as the current of the water given forth by the draining of the lake is slow or rapid in the dry river bed, so will this river be wider or narrower, or shallower or deeper in one place than another, according to this proposition: the flow and ebb of the sea which enters the Mediterranean from the ocean, and of the rivers which meet and struggle with it, will raise their waters more or less in proportion as the sea is wider or narrower.

[Footnote: In the margin is a sketch of a river which winds so as to form islands.]



Whirlpools, that is to say caverns; that is to say places left by precipitated waters.

On the alterations in the channels of rivers.



The subterranean channels of waters, like those which exist between the air and the earth, are those which unceasingly wear away and deepen the beds of their currents.

The origin of the sand in rivers (977. 978).


A river that flows from mountains deposits a great quantity of large stones in its bed, which still have some of their angles and sides, and in the course of its flow it carries down smaller stones with the angles more worn; that is to say the large stones become smaller. And farther on it deposits coarse gravel and then smaller, and as it proceeds this becomes coarse sand and then finer, and going on thus the water, turbid with sand and gravel, joins the sea; and the sand settles on the sea-shores, being cast up by the salt waves; and there results the sand of so fine a nature as to seem almost like water, and it will not stop on the shores of the sea but returns by reason of its lightness, because it was originally formed of rotten leaves and other very light things. Still, being almost—as was said—of the nature of water itself, it afterwards, when the weather is calm, settles and becomes solid at the bottom of the sea, where by its fineness it becomes compact and by its smoothness resists the waves which glide over it; and in this shells are found; and this is white earth, fit for pottery.


All the torrents of water flowing from the mountains to the sea carry with them the stones from the hills to the sea, and by the influx of the sea-water towards the mountains; these stones were thrown back towards the mountains, and as the waters rose and retired, the stones were tossed about by it and in rolling, their angles hit together; then as the parts, which least resisted the blows, were worn off, the stones ceased to be angular and became round in form, as may be seen on the banks of the Elsa. And those remained larger which were less removed from their native spot; and they became smaller, the farther they were carried from that place, so that in the process they were converted into small pebbles and then into sand and at last into mud. After the sea had receded from the mountains the brine left by the sea with other humours of the earth made a concretion of these pebbles and this sand, so that the pebbles were converted into rock and the sand into tufa. And of this we see an example in the Adda where it issues from the mountains of Como and in the Ticino, the Adige and the Oglio coming from the German Alps, and in the Arno at Monte Albano [Footnote 13: At the foot of Monte Albano lies Vinci, the birth place of Leonardo. Opposite, on the other bank of the Arno, is Monte Lupo.], near Monte Lupo and Capraia where the rocks, which are very large, are all of conglomerated pebbles of various kinds and colours.



The formation of mountains (979-983).


Mountains are made by the currents of rivers.

Mountains are destroyed by the currents of rivers.

[Footnote: Compare 789.]


That the Northern bases of some Alps are not yet petrified. And this is plainly to be seen where the rivers, which cut through them, flow towards the North; where they cut through the strata in the living stone in the higher parts of the mountains; and, where they join the plains, these strata are all of potter's clay; as is to be seen in the valley of Lamona where the river Lamona, as it issues from the Appenines, does these things on its banks.

That the rivers have all cut and divided the mountains of the great Alps one from the other. This is visible in the order of the stratified rocks, because from the summits of the banks, down to the river the correspondence of the strata in the rocks is visible on either side of the river. That the stratified stones of the mountains are all layers of clay, deposited one above the other by the various floods of the rivers. That the different size of the strata is caused by the difference in the floods—that is to say greater or lesser floods.


The summits of mountains for a long time rise constantly.

The opposite sides of the mountains always approach each other below; the depths of the valleys which are above the sphere of the waters are in the course of time constantly getting nearer to the centre of the world.

In an equal period, the valleys sink much more than the mountains rise.

The bases of the mountains always come closer together.

In proportion as the valleys become deeper, the more quickly are their sides worn away.


In every concavity at the summit of the mountains we shall always find the divisions of the strata in the rocks.



I find that of old, the state of the earth was that its plains were all covered up and hidden by salt water. [Footnote: This passage has already been published by Dr. M. JORDAN: Das Malerbuch des L. da Vinci, Leipzig 1873, p. 86. However, his reading of the text differs from mine.]

The authorities for the study of the structure of the earth.


Since things are much more ancient than letters, it is no marvel if, in our day, no records exist of these seas having covered so many countries; and if, moreover, some records had existed, war and conflagrations, the deluge of waters, the changes of languages and of laws have consumed every thing ancient. But sufficient for us is the testimony of things created in the salt waters, and found again in high mountains far from the seas.




In this work you have first to prove that the shells at a thousand braccia of elevation were not carried there by the deluge, because they are seen to be all at one level, and many mountains are seen to be above that level; and to inquire whether the deluge was caused by rain or by the swelling of the sea; and then you must show how, neither by rain nor by swelling of the rivers, nor by the overflow of this sea, could the shells—being heavy objects—be floated up the mountains by the sea, nor have carried there by the rivers against the course of their waters.

Doubts about the deluge.



Here a doubt arises, and that is: whether the deluge, which happened at the time of Noah, was universal or not. And it would seem not, for the reasons now to be given: We have it in the Bible that this deluge lasted 40 days and 40 nights of incessant and universal rain, and that this rain rose to ten cubits above the highest mountains in the world. And if it had been that the rain was universal, it would have covered our globe which is spherical in form. And this spherical surface is equally distant in every part, from the centre of its sphere; hence the sphere of the waters being under the same conditions, it is impossible that the water upon it should move, because water, in itself, does not move unless it falls; therefore how could the waters of such a deluge depart, if it is proved that it has no motion? and if it departed how could it move unless it went upwards? Here, then, natural reasons are wanting; hence to remove this doubt it is necessary to call in a miracle to aid us, or else to say that all this water was evaporated by the heat of the sun.

[Footnote: The passages, here given from the MS. Leic., have hitherto remained unknown. Some preliminary notes on the subject are to be found in MS. F 8oa and 8ob; but as compared with the fuller treatment here given, they are, it seems to me, of secondary interest. They contain nothing that is not repeated here more clearly and fully. LIBRI, Histoire des Sciences mathematiques III, pages 218—221, has printed the text of F 80a and 80b, therefore it seemed desirable to give my reasons for not inserting it in this work.]

That marine shells could not go up the mountains.



If you were to say that the shells which are to be seen within the confines of Italy now, in our days, far from the sea and at such heights, had been brought there by the deluge which left them there, I should answer that if you believe that this deluge rose 7 cubits above the highest mountains— as he who measured it has written—these shells, which always live near the sea-shore, should have been left on the mountains; and not such a little way from the foot of the mountains; nor all at one level, nor in layers upon layers. And if you were to say that these shells are desirous of remaining near to the margin of the sea, and that, as it rose in height, the shells quitted their first home, and followed the increase of the waters up to their highest level; to this I answer, that the cockle is an animal of not more rapid movement than the snail is out of water, or even somewhat slower; because it does not swim, on the contrary it makes a furrow in the sand by means of its sides, and in this furrow it will travel each day from 3 to 4 braccia; therefore this creature, with so slow a motion, could not have travelled from the Adriatic sea as far as Monferrato in Lombardy [Footnote: Monferrato di Lombardia. The range of hills of Monferrato is in Piedmont, and Casale di Monferrato belonged, in Leonardo's time, to the Marchese di Mantova.], which is 250 miles distance, in 40 days; which he has said who took account of the time. And if you say that the waves carried them there, by their gravity they could not move, excepting at the bottom. And if you will not grant me this, confess at least that they would have to stay at the summits of the highest mountains, in the lakes which are enclosed among the mountains, like the lakes of Lario, or of Como and il Maggiore [Footnote: Lago di Lario. Lacus Larius was the name given by the Romans to the lake of Como. It is evident that it is here a slip of the pen since the the words in the MS. are: "Come Lago di Lario o'l Magare e di Como," In the MS. after line 16 we come upon a digression treating of the weight of water; this has here been omitted. It is 11 lines long.] and of Fiesole, and of Perugia, and others.

And if you should say that the shells were carried by the waves, being empty and dead, I say that where the dead went they were not far removed from the living; for in these mountains living ones are found, which are recognisable by the shells being in pairs; and they are in a layer where there are no dead ones; and a little higher up they are found, where they were thrown by the waves, all the dead ones with their shells separated, near to where the rivers fell into the sea, to a great depth; like the Arno which fell from the Gonfolina near to Monte Lupo [Footnote: Monte Lupo, compare 970, 13; it is between Empoli and Florence.], where it left a deposit of gravel which may still be seen, and which has agglomerated; and of stones of various districts, natures, and colours and hardness, making one single conglomerate. And a little beyond the sandstone conglomerate a tufa has been formed, where it turned towards Castel Florentino; farther on, the mud was deposited in which the shells lived, and which rose in layers according to the levels at which the turbid Arno flowed into that sea. And from time to time the bottom of the sea was raised, depositing these shells in layers, as may be seen in the cutting at Colle Gonzoli, laid open by the Arno which is wearing away the base of it; in which cutting the said layers of shells are very plainly to be seen in clay of a bluish colour, and various marine objects are found there. And if the earth of our hemisphere is indeed raised by so much higher than it used to be, it must have become by so much lighter by the waters which it lost through the rift between Gibraltar and Ceuta; and all the more the higher it rose, because the weight of the waters which were thus lost would be added to the earth in the other hemisphere. And if the shells had been carried by the muddy deluge they would have been mixed up, and separated from each other amidst the mud, and not in regular steps and layers— as we see them now in our time.

The marine shells were not produced away from the sea.


As to those who say that shells existed for a long time and were born at a distance from the sea, from the nature of the place and of the cycles, which can influence a place to produce such creatures—to them it may be answered: such an influence could not place the animals all on one line, except those of the same sort and age; and not the old with the young, nor some with an operculum and others without their operculum, nor some broken and others whole, nor some filled with sea-sand and large and small fragments of other shells inside the whole shells which remained open; nor the claws of crabs without the rest of their bodies; nor the shells of other species stuck on to them like animals which have moved about on them; since the traces of their track still remain, on the outside, after the manner of worms in the wood which they ate into. Nor would there be found among them the bones and teeth of fish which some call arrows and others serpents' tongues, nor would so many [Footnote: I. Scilla argued against this hypothesis, which was still accepted in his days; see: La vana Speculazione, Napoli 1670.] portions of various animals be found all together if they had not been thrown on the sea shore. And the deluge cannot have carried them there, because things that are heavier than water do not float on the water. But these things could not be at so great a height if they had not been carried there by the water, such a thing being impossible from their weight. In places where the valleys have not been filled with salt sea water shells are never to be seen; as is plainly visible in the great valley of the Arno above Gonfolina; a rock formerly united to Monte Albano, in the form of a very high bank which kept the river pent up, in such a way that before it could flow into the sea, which was afterwards at its foot, it formed two great lakes; of which the first was where we now see the city of Florence together with Prato and Pistoia, and Monte Albano. It followed the rest of its bank as far as where Serravalle now stands. >From the Val d'Arno upwards, as far as Arezzo, another lake was formed, which discharged its waters into the former lake. It was closed at about the spot where now we see Girone, and occupied the whole of that valley above for a distance of 40 miles in length. This valley received on its bottom all the soil brought down by the turbid waters. And this is still to be seen at the foot of Prato Magno; it there lies very high where the rivers have not worn it away. Across this land are to be seen the deep cuts of the rivers that have passed there, falling from the great mountain of Prato Magno; in these cuts there are no vestiges of any shells or of marine soil. This lake was joined with that of Perugia [Footnote: See PI. CXIII.]

A great quantity of shells are to be seen where the rivers flow into the sea, because on such shores the waters are not so salt owing to the admixture of the fresh water, which is poured into it. Evidence of this is to be seen where, of old, the Appenines poured their rivers into the Adriatic sea; for there in most places great quantities of shells are to be found, among the mountains, together with bluish marine clay; and all the rocks which are torn off in such places are full of shells. The same may be observed to have been done by the Arno when it fell from the rock of Gonfolina into the sea, which was not so very far below; for at that time it was higher than the top of San Miniato al Tedesco, since at the highest summit of this the shores may be seen full of shells and oysters within its flanks. The shells did not extend towards Val di Nievole, because the fresh waters of the Arno did not extend so far.

That the shells were not carried away from the sea by the deluge, because the waters which came from the earth although they drew the sea towards the earth, were those which struck its depths; because the water which goes down from the earth, has a stronger current than that of the sea, and in consequence is more powerful, and it enters beneath the sea water and stirs the depths and carries with it all sorts of movable objects which are to be found in the earth, such as the above-mentioned shells and other similar things. And in proportion as the water which comes from the land is muddier than sea water it is stronger and heavier than this; therefore I see no way of getting the said shells so far in land, unless they had been born there. If you were to tell me that the river Loire [Footnote: Leonardo has written Era instead of Loera or Loira—perhaps under the mistaken idea that Lo was an article.],which traverses France covers when the sea rises more than eighty miles of country, because it is a district of vast plains, and the sea rises about 20 braccia, and shells are found in this plain at the distance of 80 miles from the sea; here I answer that the flow and ebb in our Mediterranean Sea does not vary so much; for at Genoa it does not rise at all, and at Venice but little, and very little in Africa; and where it varies little it covers but little of the country.

The course of the water of a river always rises higher in a place where the current is impeded; it behaves as it does where it is reduced in width to pass under the arches of a bridge.

Further researches (989-991).



I say that the deluge could not carry objects, native to the sea, up to the mountains, unless the sea had already increased so as to create inundations as high up as those places; and this increase could not have occurred because it would cause a vacuum; and if you were to say that the air would rush in there, we have already concluded that what is heavy cannot remain above what is light, whence of necessity we must conclude that this deluge was caused by rain water, so that all these waters ran to the sea, and the sea did not run up the mountains; and as they ran to the sea, they thrust the shells from the shore of the sea and did not draw them to wards themselves. And if you were then to say that the sea, raised by the rain water, had carried these shells to such a height, we have already said that things heavier than water cannot rise upon it, but remain at the bottom of it, and do not move unless by the impact of the waves. And if you were to say that the waves had carried them to such high spots, we have proved that the waves in a great depth move in a contrary direction at the bottom to the motion at the top, and this is shown by the turbidity of the sea from the earth washed down near its shores. Anything which is lighter than the water moves with the waves, and is left on the highest level of the highest margin of the waves. Anything which is heavier than the water moves, suspended in it, between the surface and the bottom; and from these two conclusions, which will be amply proved in their place, we infer that the waves of the surface cannot convey shells, since they are heavier than water.

If the deluge had to carry shells three hundred and four hundred miles from the sea, it would have carried them mixed with various other natural objects heaped together; and we see at such distances oysters all together, and sea-snails, and cuttlefish, and all the other shells which congregate together, all to be found together and dead; and the solitary shells are found wide apart from each other, as we may see them on sea-shores every day. And if we find oysters of very large shells joined together and among them very many which still have the covering attached, indicating that they were left here by the sea, and still living when the strait of Gibraltar was cut through; there are to be seen, in the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, a multitude of shells and corals, full of holes, and still sticking to the rocks there. When I was making the great horse for Milan, a large sack full was brought to me in my workshop by certain peasants; these were found in that place and among them were many preserved in their first freshness.

Under ground, and under the foundations of buildings, timbers are found of wrought beams and already black. Such were found in my time in those diggings at Castel Fiorentino. And these had been in that deep place before the sand carried by the Arno into the sea, then covering the plain, had heen raised to such a height; and before the plains of Casentino had been so much lowered, by the earth being constantly carried down from them.

[Footnote: These lines are written in the margin.]

And if you were to say that these shells were created, and were continually being created in such places by the nature of the spot, and of the heavens which might have some influence there, such an opinion cannot exist in a brain of much reason; because here are the years of their growth, numbered on their shells, and there are large and small ones to be seen which could not have grown without food, and could not have fed without motion—and here they could not move [Footnote: These lines are written in the margin.]


That in the drifts, among one and another, there are still to be found the traces of the worms which crawled upon them when they were not yet dry. And all marine clays still contain shells, and the shells are petrified together with the clay. From their firmness and unity some persons will have it that these animals were carried up to places remote from the sea by the deluge. Another sect of ignorant persons declare that Nature or Heaven created them in these places by celestial influences, as if in these places we did not also find the bones of fishes which have taken a long time to grow; and as if, we could not count, in the shells of cockles and snails, the years and months of their life, as we do in the horns of bulls and oxen, and in the branches of plants that have never been cut in any part. Besides, having proved by these signs the length of their lives, it is evident, and it must be admitted, that these animals could not live without moving to fetch their food; and we find in them no instrument for penetrating the earth or the rock where we find them enclosed. But how could we find in a large snail shell the fragments and portions of many other sorts of shells, of various sorts, if they had not been thrown there, when dead, by the waves of the sea like the other light objects which it throws on the earth? Why do we find so many fragments and whole shells between layer and layer of stone, if this had not formerly been covered on the shore by a layer of earth thrown up by the sea, and which was afterwards petrified? And if the deluge before mentioned had carried them to these parts of the sea, you might find these shells at the boundary of one drift but not at the boundary between many drifts. We must also account for the winters of the years during which the sea multiplied the drifts of sand and mud brought down by the neighbouring rivers, by washing down the shores; and if you chose to say that there were several deluges to produce these rifts and the shells among them, you would also have to affirm that such a deluge took place every year. Again, among the fragments of these shells, it must be presumed that in those places there were sea coasts, where all the shells were thrown up, broken, and divided, and never in pairs, since they are found alive in the sea, with two valves, each serving as a lid to the other; and in the drifts of rivers and on the shores of the sea they are found in fragments. And within the limits of the separate strata of rocks they are found, few in number and in pairs like those which were left by the sea, buried alive in the mud, which subsequently dried up and, in time, was petrified.


And if you choose to say that it was the deluge which carried these shells away from the sea for hundreds of miles, this cannot have happened, since that deluge was caused by rain; because rain naturally forces the rivers to rush towards the sea with all the things they carry with them, and not to bear the dead things of the sea shores to the mountains. And if you choose to say that the deluge afterwards rose with its waters above the mountains, the movement of the sea must have been so sluggish in its rise against the currents of the rivers, that it could not have carried, floating upon it, things heavier than itself; and even if it had supported them, in its receding it would have left them strewn about, in various spots. But how are we to account for the corals which are found every day towards Monte Ferrato in Lombardy, with the holes of the worms in them, sticking to rocks left uncovered by the currents of rivers? These rocks are all covered with stocks and families of oysters, which as we know, never move, but always remain with one of their halves stuck to a rock, and the other they open to feed themselves on the animalcules that swim in the water, which, hoping to find good feeding ground, become the food of these shells. We do not find that the sand mixed with seaweed has been petrified, because the weed which was mingled with it has shrunk away, and this the Po shows us every day in the debris of its banks.

Other problems (992-994).


Why do we find the bones of great fishes and oysters and corals and various other shells and sea-snails on the high summits of mountains by the sea, just as we find them in low seas?


You now have to prove that the shells cannot have originated if not in salt water, almost all being of that sort; and that the shells in Lombardy are at four levels, and thus it is everywhere, having been made at various times. And they all occur in valleys that open towards the seas.


>From the two lines of shells we are forced to say that the earth indignantly submerged under the sea and so the first layer was made; and then the deluge made the second.

[Footnote: This note is in the early writing of about 1470—1480. On the same sheet are the passages No. 1217 and 1219. Compare also No. 1339. All the foregoing chapters are from Manuscripts of about 1510. This explains the want of connection and the contradiction between this and the foregoing texts.]



Constituents of the atmosphere.


That the brightness of the air is occasioned by the water which has dissolved itself in it into imperceptible molecules. These, being lighted by the sun from the opposite side, reflect the brightness which is visible in the air; and the azure which is seen in it is caused by the darkness that is hidden beyond the air. [Footnote: Compare Vol. I, No. 300.]

On the motion of air (996—999).


That the return eddies of wind at the mouth of certain valleys strike upon the waters and scoop them out in a great hollow, whirl the water into the air in the form of a column, and of the colour of a cloud. And I saw this thing happen on a sand bank in the Arno, where the sand was hollowed out to a greater depth than the stature of a man; and with it the gravel was whirled round and flung about for a great space; it appeared in the air in the form of a great bell-tower; and the top spread like the branches of a pine tree, and then it bent at the contact of the direct wind, which passed over from the mountains.


The element of fire acts upon a wave of air in the same way as the air does on water, or as water does on a mass of sand —that is earth; and their motions are in the same proportions as those of the motors acting upon them.



I ask whether the true motion of the clouds can be known by the motion of their shadows; and in like manner of the motion of the sun.


To know better the direction of the winds. [Footnote: In connection with this text I may here mention a hygrometer, drawn and probably invented by Leonardo. A facsimile of this is given in Vol. I, p. 297 with the note: 'Modi di pesare l'arie eddi sapere quando s'a arrompere il tepo' (Mode of weighing the air and of knowing when the weather will change); by the sponge "Spugnea" is written.]

The globe an organism.


Nothing originates in a spot where there is no sentient, vegetable and rational life; feathers grow upon birds and are changed every year; hairs grow upon animals and are changed every year, excepting some parts, like the hairs of the beard in lions, cats and their like. The grass grows in the fields, and the leaves on the trees, and every year they are, in great part, renewed. So that we might say that the earth has a spirit of growth; that its flesh is the soil, its bones the arrangement and connection of the rocks of which the mountains are composed, its cartilage the tufa, and its blood the springs of water. The pool of blood which lies round the heart is the ocean, and its breathing, and the increase and decrease of the blood in the pulses, is represented in the earth by the flow and ebb of the sea; and the heat of the spirit of the world is the fire which pervades the earth, and the seat of the vegetative soul is in the fires, which in many parts of the earth find vent in baths and mines of sulphur, and in volcanoes, as at Mount Aetna in Sicily, and in many other places.

[Footnote: Compare No. 929.]


Topographical Notes.

A large part of the texts published in this section might perhaps have found their proper place in connection with the foregoing chapters on Physical Geography. But these observations on Physical Geography, of whatever kind they may be, as soon as they are localised acquire a special interest and importance and particularly as bearing on the question whether Leonardo himself made the observations recorded at the places mentioned or merely noted the statements from hearsay. In a few instances he himself tells us that he writes at second hand. In some cases again, although the style and expressions used make it seem highly probable that he has derived his information from others— though, as it seems to me, these cases are not very numerous—we find, on the other hand, among these topographical notes a great number of observations, about which it is extremely difficult to form a decided opinion. Of what the Master's life and travels may have been throughout his sixty-seven years of life we know comparatively little; for a long course of time, and particularly from about 1482 to 1486, we do not even know with certainty that he was living in Italy. Thus, from a biographical point of view a very great interest attaches to some of the topographical notes, and for this reason it seemed that it would add to their value to arrange them in a group by themselves. Leonardo's intimate knowledge with places, some of which were certainly remote from his native home, are of importance as contributing to decide the still open question as to the extent of Leonardo's travels. We shall find in these notes a confirmation of the view, that the MSS. in which the Topographical Notes occur are in only a very few instances such diaries as may have been in use during a journey. These notes are mostly found in the MSS. books of his later and quieter years, and it is certainly remarkable that Leonardo is very reticent as to the authorities from whom he quotes his facts and observations: For instance, as to the Straits of Gibraltar, the Nile, the Taurus Mountains and the Tigris and Euphrates. Is it likely that he, who declared that in all scientific research, his own experience should be the foundation of his statements (see XIX Philosophy No. 987—991,) should here have made an exception to this rule without mentioning it?

As for instance in the discussion as to the equilibrium of the mass of water in the Mediterranean Sea—a subject which, it may be observed, had at that time attracted the interest and study of hardly any other observer. The acute remarks, in Nos. 985—993, on the presence of shells at the tops of mountains, suffice to prove—as it seems to me—that it was not in his nature to allow himself to be betrayed into wide generalisations, extending beyond the limits of his own investigations, even by such brilliant results of personal study.

Most of these Topographical Notes, though suggesting very careful and thorough research, do not however, as has been said, afford necessarily indisputable evidence that that research was Leonardo's own. But it must be granted that in more than one instance probability is in favour of this idea.

Among the passages which treat somewhat fully of the topography of Eastern places by far the most interesting is a description of the Taurus Mountains; but as this text is written in the style of a formal report and, in the original, is associated with certain letters which give us the history of its origin, I have thought it best not to sever it from that connection. It will be found under No. XXI (Letters).

That Florence, and its neighbourhood, where Leonardo spent his early years, should be nowhere mentioned except in connection with the projects for canals, which occupied his attention for some short time during the first ten years of the XVIth century, need not surprise us. The various passages relating to the construction of canals in Tuscany, which are put together at the beginning, are immediately followed by those which deal with schemes for canals in Lombardy; and after these come notes on the city and vicinity of Milan as well as on the lakes of North Italy.

The notes on some towns of Central Italy which Leonardo visited in 1502, when in the service of Cesare Borgia, are reproduced here in the same order as in the note book used during these travels (MS. L., Institut de France). These notes have but little interest in themselves excepting as suggesting his itinerary. The maps of the districts drawn by Leonardo at the time are more valuable (see No. 1054 note). The names on these maps are not written from right to left, but in the usual manner, and we are permitted to infer that they were made in obedience to some command, possibly for the use of Cesare Borgia himself; the fact that they remained nevertheless in Leonardo's hands is not surprising when we remember the sudden political changes and warlike events of the period. There can be no doubt that these maps, which are here published for the first time, are original in the strictest sense of the word, that is to say drawn from observations of the places themselves; this is proved by the fact—among others—that we find among his manuscripts not only the finished maps themselves but the rough sketches and studies for them. And it would perhaps be difficult to point out among the abundant contributions to geographical knowledge published during the XVIth century, any maps at all approaching these in accuracy and finish.

The interesting map of the world, so far as it was then known, which is among the Leonardo MSS. at Windsor (published in the 'Archaeologia' Vol. XI) cannot be attributed to the Master, as the Marchese Girolamo d'Adda has sufficiently proved; it has not therefore been reproduced here.

Such of Leonardo's observations on places in Italy as were made before or after his official travels as military engineer to Cesare Borgia, have been arranged in alphabetical order, under Nos. 1034-1054. The most interesting are those which relate to the Alps and the Appenines, Nos. 1057-1068.

Most of the passages in which France is mentioned have hitherto remained unknown, as well as those which treat of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean, which come at the end of this section. Though these may be regarded as of a more questionable importance in their bearing on the biography of the Master than those which mention places in France, it must be allowed that they are interesting as showing the prominent place which the countries of the East held in his geographical studies. He never once alludes to the discovery of America.



Canals in connection with the Arno (1001-1008).



Sluices should be made in the valley of la Chiana at Arezzo, so that when, in the summer, the Arno lacks water, the canal may not remain dry: and let this canal be 20 braccia wide at the bottom, and at the top 30, and 2 braccia deep, or 4, so that two of these braccia may flow to the mills and the meadows, which will benefit the country; and Prato, Pistoia and Pisa, as well as Florence, will gain two hundred thousand ducats a year, and will lend a hand and money to this useful work; and the Lucchese the same, for the lake of Sesto will be navigable; I shall direct it to Prato and Pistoia, and cut through Serravalle and make an issue into the lake; for there will be no need of locks or supports, which are not lasting and so will always be giving trouble in working at them and keeping them up.

And know that in digging this canal where it is 4 braccia deep, it will cost 4 dinari the square braccio; for twice the depth 6 dinari, if you are making 4 braccia [Footnote: This passage is illustrated by a slightly sketched map, on which these places are indicated from West to East: Pisa, Luccha, Lago, Seravalle, Pistoja, Prato, Firenze.] and there are but 2 banks; that is to say one from the bottom of the trench to the surface of the edges of it, and the other from these edges to the top of the ridge of earth which will be raised on the margin of the bank. And if this bank were of double the depth only the first bank will be increased, that is 4 braccia increased by half the first cost; that is to say that if at first 4 dinari were paid for 2 banks, for 3 it would come to 6, at 2 dinari the bank, if the trench measured 16 braccia at the bottom; again, if the trench were 16 braccia wide and 4 deep, coming to 4 lire for the work, 4 Milan dinari the square braccio; a trench which was 32 braccia at the bottom would come to 8 dinari the square braccio.


>From the wall of the Arno at [the gate of] la Giustizia to the bank of the Arno at Sardigna where the walls are, to the mills, is 7400 braccia, that is 2 miles and 1400 braccia and beyond the Arno is 5500 braccia.

[Footnote: 2. Giustizia. By this the Porta della Giustizia seems to be meant; from the XVth to the XVIth centuries it was also commonly known as Porta Guelfa, Porta San Francesco del Renaio, Porta Nuova, and Porta Reale. It was close to the Arno opposite to the Porta San Niccolo, which still exists.]


By guiding the Arno above and below a treasure will be found in each acre of ground by whomsoever will.


The wall of the old houses runs towards the gate of San Nicolo.

[Footnote: By the side of this text there is an indistinct sketch, resembling that given under No.973. On the bank is written the word Casace. There then follows in the original a passage of 12 lines in which the consequences of the windings of the river are discussed. A larger but equally hasty diagram on the same page represents the shores of the Arno inside Florence as in two parallel lines. Four horizontal lines indicate the bridges. By the side these measures are stated in figures: I. (at the Ponte alla Carraja): 230—largho br. 12 e 2 di spoda e 14 di pile e a 4 pilastri; 2. (at the Ponte S. Trinita); l88—largho br. 15 e 2 di spode he 28 di pilastri for delle spode e pilastri so 2; 3. (at the Ponte vecchio); pote lung br. 152 e largo; 4. (at the Ponte alle Grazie): 290 ellargo 12 e 2 di spode e 6 di pili.

There is, in MS. W. L. 2l2b, a sketched plan of Florence, with the following names of gates: Nicholo—Saminiato—Giorgo—Ghanolini—Porta San Fredian —Prato—Faenza—Ghallo—Pinti—Giustitia.]


The ruined wall is 640 braccia; 130 is the wall remaining with the mill; 300 braccia were broken in 4 years by Bisarno.


They do not know why the Arno will never remain in a channel. It is because the rivers which flow into it deposit earth where they enter, and wear it away on the opposite side, bending the river in that direction. The Arno flows for 6 miles between la Caprona and Leghorn; and for 12 through the marshes, which extend 32 miles, and 16 from La Caprona up the river, which makes 48; by the Arno from Florence beyond 16 miles; to Vico 16 miles, and the canal is 5; from Florence to Fucechio it is 40 miles by the river Arno.

56 miles by the Arno from Florence to Vico; by the Pistoia canal it is 44 miles. Thus it is 12 miles shorter by the canal than by the Arno.

[Footnote: This passage is written by the side of a map washed in Indian ink, of the course of the Arno; it is evidently a sketch for a completer map.

These investigations may possibly be connected with the following documents. Francesco Guiducci alla Balia di Firenze. Dal Campo contro Pisa 24 Luglio 1503 (Archivio di Stato, Firenze, Lettere alla Balia; published by J. GAYE, Carteggio inedito d'Artisti, Firenze 1840, Tom. II, p. 62): Ex Castris, Franciscus Ghuiduccius, 24. Jul. 1503. Appresso fu qui hieri con una di V. Signoria Alexandro degli Albizi insieme con Leonardo da Vinci et certi altri, et veduto el disegno insieme con el ghovernatore, doppo molte discussioni et dubii conclusesi che l'opera fussi molto al proposito, o si veramente Arno volgersi qui, o restarvi con un canale, che almeno vieterebbe che le colline da nemici non potrebbono essere offese; come tucto referiranno loro a bocha V. S.

And, Archivio di Stato, Firenze, Libro d'Entrata e Uscita di cassa de' Magnifici Signori di luglio e agosto

1503 a 51 T.: Andata di Leonardo al Campo sotto Pisa. Spese extraordinarie dieno dare a di XXVI di luglio L. LVI sol. XII per loro a Giovanni Piffero; e sono per tanti, asegnia avere spexi in vetture di sei chavalli a spese di vitto per andare chon Lionardo da Vinci a livellare Arno in quello di Pisa per levallo del lilo suo. (Published by MILANESI, Archivio Storico Italiano, Serie III, Tom. XVI.} VASARI asserts: (Leonardo) fu il primo ancora, che giovanetto discorresse sopra il fiume d'Arno per metterlo in canale da Pisa a Fiorenza (ed. SANSONI, IV, 20).

The passage above is in some degree illustrated by the map on Pl. CXII, where the course of the Arno westward from Empoli is shown.]


The eddy made by the Mensola, when the Arno is low and the Mensola full.

[Footnote: Mensola is a mountain stream which falls into the Arno about a mile and a half above Florence.

A=Arno, I=Isola, M=Mvgone, P=Pesa, N=Mesola.]


That the river which is to be turned from one place to another must be coaxed and not treated roughly or with violence; and to do this a sort of floodgate should be made in the river, and then lower down one in front of it and in like manner a third, fourth and fifth, so that the river may discharge itself into the channel given to it, or that by this means it may be diverted from the place it has damaged, as was done in Flanders—as I was told by Niccolo di Forsore.

How to protect and repair the banks washed by the water, as below the island of Cocomeri.

Ponte Rubaconte (Fig. 1); below [the palaces] Bisticci and Canigiani (Fig. 2). Above the flood gate of la Giustizia (Fig. 3); a b is a sand bank opposite the end of the island of the Cocomeri in the middle of the Arno (Fig. 4). [Footnote: The course of the river Arno is also discussed in Nos. 987 and 988.]

Canals in the Milanese (1009-1013).


The canal of San Cristofano at Milan made May 3rd 1509. [Footnote: This observation is written above a washed pen and ink drawing which has been published as Tav. VI in the ,,Saggio." The editors of that work explain the drawing as "uno Studio di bocche per estrazione d'acqua."]



By making the canal of Martesana the water of the Adda is greatly diminished by its distribution over many districts for the irrigation of the fields. A remedy for this would be to make several little channels, since the water drunk up by the earth is of no more use to any one, nor mischief neither, because it is taken from no one; and by making these channels the water which before was lost returns again and is once more serviceable and useful to men.

[Footnote: "el navilio di Martagano" is also mentioned in a note written in red chalk, MS. H2 17a Leonardo has, as it seems, little to do with Lodovico il Moro's scheme to render this canal navigable. The canal had been made in 1460 by Bertonino da Novara. Il Moro issued his degree in 1493, but Leonardo's notes about this canal were, with the exception of one (No. 1343), written about sixteen years later.]


No canal which is fed by a river can be permanent if the river whence it originates is not wholly closed up, like the canal of Martesana which is fed by the Ticino.


>From the beginning of the canal to the mill.

>From the beginning of the canal of Brivio to the mill of Travaglia is 2794 trabochi, that is 11176 braccia, which is more than 3 miles and two thirds; and here the canal is 57 braccia higher than the surface of the water of the Adda, giving a fall of two inches in every hundred trabochi; and at that spot we propose to take the opening of our canal.

[Footnote: The following are written on the sketches: At the place marked N: navilio da dacquiue (canal of running water); at M: molin del Travaglia (Mill of Travaglia); at R: rochetta ssanta maria (small rock of Santa Maria); at A: Adda; at L: Lagho di Lecho ringorgato alli 3 corni in Adda,—Concha perpetua (lake of Lecco overflowing at Tre Corni, in Adda,— a permanent sluice). Near the second sketch, referring to the sluice near Q: qui la chatena ttalie d'u peso (here the chain is in one piece). At M in the lower sketch: mol del travaglia, nel cavare la concha il tereno ara chotrapero co cassa d'acqua. (Mill of Travaglia, in digging out the sluice the soil will have as a counterpoise a vessel of water).]


If it be not reported there that this is to be a public canal, it will be necessary to pay for the land; [Footnote 3: il re. Louis XII or Francis I of France. It is hardly possible to doubt that the canals here spoken of were intended to be in the Milanese. Compare with this passage the rough copy of a letter by Leonardo, to the "Presidente dell' Ufficio regolatore dell' acqua" on No. 1350. See also the note to No. 745, 1. 12.] and the king will pay it by remitting the taxes for a year.

Estimates and preparatory studies for canals (1014. 1015).



The canal which may be 16 braccia wide at the bottom and 20 at the top, we may say is on the average 18 braccia wide, and if it is 4 braccia deep, at 4 dinari the square braccia; it will only cost 900 ducats, to excavate by the mile, if the square braccio is calculated in ordinary braccia; but if the braccia are those used in measuring land, of which every 4 are equal to 4 1/2 and if by the mile we understand three thousand ordinary braccia; turned into land braccia, these 3000 braccia will lack 1/4; there remain 2250 braccia, which at 4 dinari the braccio will amount to 675 ducats a mile. At 3 dinari the square braccio, the mile will amount to 506 1/4 ducats so that the excavation of 30 miles of the canal will amount to 15187 1/2 ducats.


To make the great canal, first make the smaller one and conduct into it the waters which by a wheel will help to fill the great one.

Notes on buildings in Milan (1016-1019)


Indicate the centre of Milan.

Moforte—porta resa—porta nova—strada nova—navilio—porta cumana—barco—porta giovia—porta vercellina—porta sco Anbrogio—porta Tesinese—torre dell' Imperatore— porta Lodovica—acqua.

[Footnote: See Pl. CIX. The original sketch is here reduced to about half its size. The gates of the town are here named, beginning at the right hand and following the curved line. In the bird's eye view of Milan below, the cathedral is plainly recognisable in the middle; to the right is the tower of San Gottardo. The square, above the number 9147, is the Lazzaretto, which was begun in 1488. On the left the group of buildings of the 'Castello' will be noticed. On the sketched Plan of Florence (see No. 1004 note) Leonardo has written on the margin the following names of gates of Milan: Vercellina —Ticinese—Ludovica—Romana—Orientale— Nova—Beatrice—Cumana—Compare too No. 1448, 11. 5, 12.]


The moat of Milan.

Canal 2 braccia wide.

The castle with the moats full.

The filling of the moats of the Castle of Milan.



To heat the water for the stove of the Duchess take four parts of cold water to three parts of hot water.

[Footnote: Duchessa di Milano, Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ludovico il Moro to whom she was married, in 1491. She died in June 1497.]


In the Cathedral at the pulley of the nail of the cross.


To place the mass v r in the...

[Footnote: On this passage AMORETTI remarks (Memorie Storiche chap. IX): Nell'anno stesso lo veggiamo formare un congegno di carucole e di corde, con cui trasportare in piu venerabile e piu sicuro luogo, cioe nell'ultima arcata della nave di mezzo della metropolitana, la sacra reliquia del Santo Chiodo, che ivi ancor si venera. Al fol. 15 del codice segnato Q. R. in 16, egli ci ha lasciata di tal congegno una doppia figura, cioe una di quattro carucole, e una di tre colle rispettive corde, soggiugnandovi: in Domo alla carucola del Chiodo della Croce.

AMORETTI'S views as to the mark on the MS, and the date when it was written are, it may be observed, wholly unfounded. The MS. L, in which it occurs, is of the year 1502, and it is very unlikely that Leonardo was in Milan at that time; this however would not prevent the remark, which is somewhat obscure, from applying to the Cathedral at Milan.]



I saw, at Milan, a thunderbolt fall on the tower della Credenza on its Northern side, and it descended with a slow motion down that side, and then at once parted from that tower and carried with it and tore away from that wall a space of 3 braccia wide and two deep; and this wall was 4 braccia thick and was built of thin and small old bricks; and this was dragged out by the vacuum which the flame of the thunderbolt had caused, &c.

[Footnote: With reference to buildings at Milan see also Nos. 751 and 756, and Pl. XCV, No. 2 (explained on p. 52), Pl. C (explained on pages 60-62). See also pages 25, 39 and 40.]

Remarks on natural phenomena in and near Milan (1021. 1022).


I have already been to see a great variety (of atmospheric effects). And lately over Milan towards Lago Maggiore I saw a cloud in the form of an immense mountain full of rifts of glowing light, because the rays of the sun, which was already close to the horizon and red, tinged the cloud with its own hue. And this cloud attracted to it all the little clouds that were near while the large one did not move from its place; thus it retained on its summit the reflection of the sunlight till an hour and a half after sunset, so immensely large was it; and about two hours after sunset such a violent wind arose, that it was really tremendous and unheard of.

[Footnote: di arie is wanting in the original but may safely be inserted in the context, as the formation of clouds is under discussion before this text.]


On the 10th day of December at 9 o'clock a. m. fire was set to the place.

On the l8th day of December 1511 at 9 o'clock a. m. this second fire was kindled by the Swiss at Milan at the place called DCXC. [Footnote: With these two texts, (l. 1—2 and l. 3—5 are in the original side by side) there are sketches of smoke wreaths in red chalk.]

Note on Pavia.


The chimneys of the castle of Pavia have 6 rows of openings and from each to the other is one braccio.

[Footnote: Other notes relating to Pavia occur on p. 43 and p. 53 (Pl. XCVIII, No. 3). Compare No. 1448, 26.]

Notes on the Sforzesca near Vigevano (1024-1028).


On the 2nd day of February 1494. At Sforzesca I drew twenty five steps, 2/3 braccia to each, and 8 braccia wide.

[Footnote: See Pl. CX, No. 2. The rest of the notes on this page refer to the motion of water. On the lower sketch we read: 4 br. (four braccia) and giara (for ghiaja, sand, gravel).]


The vineyards of Vigevano on the 20th day of March 1494.

[Footnote: On one side there is an effaced sketch in red chalk.]


To lock up a butteris at Vigevano.


Again if the lowest part of the bank which lies across the current of the waters is made in deep and wide steps, after the manner of stairs, the waters which, in their course usually fall perpendicularly from the top of such a place to the bottom, and wear away the foundations of this bank can no longer descend with a blow of too great a force; and I find the example of this in the stairs down which the water falls in the fields at Sforzesca at Vigevano over which the running water falls for a height of 50 braccia.


Stair of Vigevano below La Sforzesca, 130 steps, 1/4 braccio high and 1/2 braccio wide, down which the water falls, so as not to wear away anything at the end of its fall; by these steps so much soil has come down that it has dried up a pool; that is to say it has filled it up and a pool of great depth has been turned into meadows.

Notes on the North Italian lake. (1029-1033)


In many places there are streams of water which swell for six hours and ebb for six hours; and I, for my part, have seen one above the lake of Como called Fonte Pliniana, which increases and ebbs, as I have said, in such a way as to turn the stones of two mills; and when it fails it falls so low that it is like looking at water in a deep pit.

[Footnote: The fountain is known by this name to this day: it is near Torno, on the Eastern shore of Como. The waters still rise and fall with the flow and ebb of the tide as Pliny described it (Epist. IV, 30; Hist. Nat. II, 206).]



Above the lake of Como towards Germany is the valley of Chiavenna where the river Mera flows into this lake. Here are barren and very high mountains, with huge rocks. Among these mountains are to be found the water-birds called gulls. Here grow fir trees, larches and pines. Deer, wildgoats, chamois, and terrible bears. It is impossible to climb them without using hands and feet. The peasants go there at the time of the snows with great snares to make the bears fall down these rocks. These mountains which very closely approach each other are parted by the river. They are to the right and left for the distance of 20 miles throughout of the same nature. >From mile to mile there are good inns. Above on the said river there are waterfalls of 400 braccia in height, which are fine to see; and there is good living at 4 soldi the reckoning. This river brings down a great deal of timber.


Val Sasina runs down towards Italy; this is almost the same form and character. There grow here many mappello and there are great ruins and falls of water [Footnote 14: The meaning of mappello is unknown.].


This valley produces a great quantity of firs, pines and larches; and from here Ambrogio Fereri has his timber brought down; at the head of the Valtellina are the mountains of Bormio, terrible and always covered with snow; marmots (?) are found there.


Opposite the castle Bellaggio there is the river Latte, which falls from a height of more than 100 braccia from the source whence it springs, perpendicularly, into the lake with an inconceivable roar and noise. This spring flows only in August and September.


Valtellina, as it is called, is a valley enclosed in high and terrible mountains; it produces much strong wine, and there is so much cattle that the natives conclude that more milk than wine grows there. This is the valley through which the Adda passes, which first runs more than 40 miles through Germany; this river breeds the fish temolo which live on silver, of which much is to be found in its sands. In this country every one can sell bread and wine, and the wine is worth at most one soldo the bottle and a pound of veal one soldo, and salt ten dinari and butter the same and their pound is 30 ounces, and eggs are one soldo the lot.



At Bormio are the baths;—About eight miles above Como is the Pliniana, which increases and ebbs every six hours, and its swell supplies water for two mills; and its ebbing makes the spring dry up; two miles higher up there is Nesso, a place where a river falls with great violence into a vast rift in the mountain. These excursions are to be made in the month of May. And the largest bare rocks that are to be found in this part of the country are the mountains of Mandello near to those of Lecco, and of Gravidona towards Bellinzona, 30 miles from Lecco, and those of the valley of Chiavenna; but the greatest of all is that of Mandello, which has at its base an opening towards the lake, which goes down 200 steps, and there at all times is ice and wind.


In Val Sasina, between Vimognio and Introbbio, to the right hand, going in by the road to Lecco, is the river Troggia which falls from a very high rock, and as it falls it goes underground and the river ends there. 3 miles farther we find the buildings of the mines of copper and silver near a place called Pra' Santo Pietro, and mines of iron and curious things. La Grigna is the highest mountain there is in this part, and it is quite bare.

[Footnote: 1030 and 1031. From the character of the handwriting we may conclude that these observations were made in Leonardo's youth; and I should infer from their contents, that they were notes made in anticipation of a visit to the places here described, and derived from some person (unknown to us) who had given him an account of them.]


The lake of Pusiano flows into the lake of Segrino [Footnote 3: The statement about the lake Segrino is incorrect; it is situated in the Valle Assina, above the lake of Pusiano.] and of Annone and of Sala. The lake of Annone is 22 braccia higher at the surface of its water than the surface of the water of the lake of Lecco, and the lake of Pusiano is 20 braccia higher than the lake of Annone, which added to the afore said 22 braccia make 42 braccia and this is the greatest height of the surface of the lake of Pusiano above the surface of the lake of Lecco.

[Footnote: This text has in the original a slight sketch to illustrate it.]


At Santa Maria in the Valley of Ravagnate [Footnote 2: Ravagnate (Leonardo writes Ravagna) in the Brianza is between Oggiono and Brivio, South of the lake of Como. M. Ravaisson avails himself of this note to prove his hypothesis that Leonardo paid two visits to France. See Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1881 pag. 528:

_Au recto du meme feuillet, on lit encore une note relative a une vallee "nemonti brigatia"; il me semble qu'il s'agit bien des monts de Briancon, le Brigantio des anciens. Briancon est sur la route de Lyon en Italie. Ce fut par le mont Viso que passerent, en aout 1515, les troupes francaises qui allaient remporter la victoire de Marignan.

Leonard de Vinci, ingenieur de Francois Ier, comme il l'avait ete de Louis XII, aurait-il ete pour quelque chose dans le plan du celebre passage des Alpes, qui eut lieu en aout 1515, et a la suite duquel on le vit accompagner partout le chevaleresque vainqueur? Auraitil ete appele par le jeune roi, de Rome ou l'artiste etait alors, des son avenement au trone?_] in the mountains of Brianza are the rods of chestnuts of 9 braccia and one out of an average of 100 will be 14 braccia.

At Varallo di Ponbia near to Sesto on the Ticino the quinces are white, large and hard.

[Footnote 5: Varallo di Ponbia, about ten miles South of Arona is distinct from Varallo the chief town in the Val di Sesia.]

Notes on places in Central Italy, visited in 1502 (1034-1054).


Pigeon-house at Urbino, the 30th day of July 1502. [Footnote: An indistinct sketch is introduced with this text, in the original, in which the word Scolatoro (conduit) is written.]


Made by the sea at Piombino. [Footnote: Below the sketch there are eleven lines of text referring to the motion of waves.]


Acquapendente is near Orvieto. [Footnote: Acquapendente is about 10 miles West of Orvieto, and is to the right in the map on Pl. CXIII, near the lake of Bolsena.]


The rock of Cesena. [Footnote: See Pl. XCIV No. 1, the lower sketch. The explanation of the upper sketch is given on p. 29.]


Siena, a b 4 braccia, a c 10 braccia. Steps at [the castle of] Urbino. [Footnote: See Pl. CX No. 3; compare also No. 765.]


The bell of Siena, that is the manner of its movement, and the place of the attachment of the clapper. [Footnote: The text is accompanied by an indistinct sketch.]


On St. Mary's day in the middle of August, at Cesena, 1502. [Footnote: See Pl. CX, No. 4.]


Stairs of the [palace of the] Count of Urbino,—rough. [Footnote: The text is accompanied by a slight sketch.]


At the fair of San Lorenzo at Cesena. 1502.


Windows at Cesena. [Footnote: There are four more lines of text which refer to a slightly sketched diagram.]


At Porto Cesenatico, on the 6th of September 1502 at 9 o'clock a. m.

The way in which bastions ought to project beyond the walls of the towers to defend the outer talus; so that they may not be taken by artillery.

[Footnote: An indistinct sketch, accompanies this passage.]


The rock of the harbour of Cesena is four points towards the South West from Cesena.


In Romagna, the realm of all stupidity, vehicles with four wheels are used, of which O the two in front are small and two high ones are behind; an arrangement which is very unfavourable to the motion, because on the fore wheels more weight is laid than on those behind, as I showed in the first of the 5th on "Elements".


Thus grapes are carried at Cesena. The number of the diggers of the ditches is [arranged] pyramidically. [Footnote: A sketch, representing a hook to which two bunches of grapes are hanging, refers to these first two lines. Cesena is mentioned again Fol. 82a: Carro da Cesena (a cart from Cesena).]


There might be a harmony of the different falls of water as you saw them at the fountain of Rimini on the 8th day of August, 1502.


The fortress at Urbino. [Footnote: 1049. In the original the text is written inside the sketch in the place here marked n.]


Imola, as regards Bologna, is five points from the West, towards the North West, at a distance of 20 miles.

Castel San Piero is seen from Imola at four points from the West towards the North West, at a distance of 7 miles.

Faenza stands with regard to Imola between East and South East at a distance of ten miles. Forli stands with regard to Faenza between South East and East at a distance of 20 miles from Imola and ten from Faenza.

Forlimpopoli lies in the same direction at 25 miles from Imola.

Bertinoro, as regards Imola, is five points from the East to wards the South East, at 27 miles.


Imola as regards Bologna is five points from the West towards the North West at a distance of 20 miles.

Castel San Pietro lies exactly North West of Imola, at a distance of 7 miles.

Faenza, as regards Imola lies exactly half way between the East and South East at a distance of 10 miles; and Forli lies in the same direction from Imola at a distance of 20 miles; and Forlimpopolo lies in the same direction from Forli at a distance of 25 miles.

Bertinoro is seen from Imola two points from the East towards the South East at a distance of 27 miles.

[Footnote: Leonardo inserted this passage on the margin of the circular plan, in water colour, of Imola—see Pl. CXI No. 1.—In the original the fields surrounding the town are light green; the moat, which surrounds the fortifications and the windings of the river Santerno, are light blue. The parts, which have come out blackish close to the river are yellow ochre in the original. The dark groups of houses inside the town are red. At the four points of the compass drawn in the middle of the town Leonardo has written (from right to left): Mezzodi (South) at the top; to the left Scirocho (South east), levante (East), Greco (North East), Septantrione (North), Maesstro (North West), ponente (West) Libecco (South West). The arch in which the plan is drawn is, in the original, 42 centimetres across.

At the beginning of October 1502 Cesare Borgia was shut up in Imola by a sudden revolt of the Condottieri, and it was some weeks before he could release himself from this state of siege (see Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, Vol. VII, Book XIII, 5, 5).

Besides this incident Imola plays no important part in the history of the time. I therefore think myself fully justified in connecting this map, which is at Windsor, with the siege of 1502 and with Leonardo's engagements in the service of Cesare Borgia, because a comparison of these texts, Nos. 1050 and 1051, raise, I believe, the hypothesis to a certainty.]


>From Bonconventi to Casa Nova are 10 miles, from Casa Nova to Chiusi 9 miles, from Chiusi to Perugia, from, Perugia to Santa Maria degli Angeli, and then to Fuligno. [Footnote: Most of the places here described lie within the district shown in the maps on Pl. CXIII.]


On the first of August 1502, the library at Pesaro.



On the tops and sides of hills foreshorten the shape of the ground and its divisions, but give its proper shape to what is turned towards you. [Footnote: This passage evidently refers to the making of maps, such as Pl. CXII, CXIII, and CXIV. There is no mention of such works, it is true, excepting in this one passage of MS. L. But this can scarcely be taken as evidence against my view that Leonardo busied himself very extensively at that time in the construction of maps; and all the less since the foregoing chapters clearly prove that at a time so full of events Leonardo would only now and then commit his observations to paper, in the MS. L.

By the side of this text we find, in the original, a very indistinct sketch, perhaps a plan of a position. Instead of this drawing I have here inserted a much clearer sketch of a position from the same MS., L. 82b and 83a. They are the only drawings of landscape, it may be noted, which occur at all in that MS.]

Alessandria in Piedmont (1055. 1056).


At Candia in Lombardy, near Alessandria della Paglia, in making a well for Messer Gualtieri [Footnote 2: Messer Gualtieri, the same probably as is mentioned in Nos. 672 and 1344.] of Candia, the skeleton of a very large boat was found about 10 braccia underground; and as the timber was black and fine, it seemed good to the said Messer Gualtieri to have the mouth of the well lengthened in such a way as that the ends of the boat should be uncovered.


At Alessandria della Paglia in Lombardy there are no stones for making lime of, but such as are mixed up with an infinite variety of things native to the sea, which is now more than 200 miles away.

The Alps (1057-1062).


At Monbracco, above Saluzzo,—a mile above the Certosa, at the foot of Monte Viso, there is a quarry of flakey stone, which is as white as Carrara marble, without a spot, and as hard as porphyry or even harder; of which my worthy gossip, Master Benedetto the sculptor, has promised to give me a small slab, for the colours, the second day of January 1511.

[Footnote: Saluzzo at the foot of the Alps South of Turin.]

[Footnote 9. 10.: Maestro Benedetto scultore; probably some native of Northern Italy acquainted with the place here described. Hardly the Florentine sculptor Benedetto da Majano. Amoretti had published this passage, and M. Ravaisson who gave a French translation of it in the Gazette des Beaux Arts (1881, pag. 528), remarks as follows: Le maitre sculpteur que Leonard appelle son "compare" ne serait-il pas Benedetto da Majano, un de ceux qui jugerent avec lui de la place a donner au David de Michel-Ange, et de qui le Louvre a acquis recemment un buste d'apres Philippe Strozzi? To this it may be objected that Benedetto da Majano had already lain in his grave fourteen years, in the year 1511, when he is supposed to have given the promise to Leonardo. The colours may have been given to the sculptor Benedetto and the stone may have been in payment for them. >From the description of the stone here given we may conclude that it is repeated from hearsay of the sculptor's account of it. I do not understand how, from this observation, it is possible to conclude that Leonardo was on the spot.]


That there are springs which suddenly break forth in earthquakes or other convulsions and suddenly fail; and this happened in a mountain in Savoy where certain forests sank in and left a very deep gap, and about four miles from here the earth opened itself like a gulf in the mountain, and threw out a sudden and immense flood of water which scoured the whole of a little valley of the tilled soil, vineyards and houses, and did the greatest mischief, wherever it overflowed.


The river Arve, a quarter of a mile from Geneva in Savoy, where the fair is held on midsummerday in the village of Saint Gervais.

[Footnote: An indistinct sketch is to be seen by the text.]


And this may be seen, as I saw it, by any one going up Monbroso [Footnote: I have vainly enquired of every available authority for a solution of the mystery as to what mountain is intended by the name Monboso (Comp. Vol. I Nos. 300 and 301). It seems most obvious to refer it to Monte Rosa. ROSA derived from the Keltic ROS which survives in Breton and in Gaelic, meaning, in its first sense, a mountain spur, but which also—like HORN—means a very high peak; thus Monte Rosa would mean literally the High Peak.], a peak of the Alps which divide France from Italy. The base of this mountain gives birth to the 4 rivers which flow in four different directions through the whole of Europe. And no mountain has its base at so great a height as this, which lifts itself above almost all the clouds; and snow seldom falls there, but only hail in the summer, when the clouds are highest. And this hail lies [unmelted] there, so that if it were not for the absorption of the rising and falling clouds, which does not happen more than twice in an age, an enormous mass of ice would be piled up there by the layers of hail, and in the middle of July I found it very considerable; and I saw the sky above me quite dark, and the sun as it fell on the mountain was far brighter here than in the plains below, because a smaller extent of atmosphere lay between the summit of the mountain and the sun. [Footnote 6: in una eta. This is perhaps a slip of the pen on Leonardo's part and should be read estate (summer).]

Leic. 9b]


In the mountains of Verona the red marble is found all mixed with cockle shells turned into stone; some of them have been filled at the mouth with the cement which is the substance of the stone; and in some parts they have remained separate from the mass of the rock which enclosed them, because the outer covering of the shell had interposed and had not allowed them to unite with it; while in other places this cement had petrified those which were old and almost stripped the outer skin.


Bridge of Goertz-Wilbach (?).

[Footnote: There is a slight sketch with this text, Leonardo seems to have intended to suggest, with a few pen-strokes, the course of the Isonzo and of the Wipbach in the vicinity of Gorizia (Goerz). He himself says in another place that he had been in Friuli (see No. 1077 1. 19).]

The Appenins (1063-1068).


That part of the earth which was lightest remained farthest from the centre of the world; and that part of the earth became the lightest over which the greatest quantity of water flowed. And therefore that part became lightest where the greatest number of rivers flow; like the Alps which divide Germany and France from Italy; whence issue the Rhone flowing Southwards, and the Rhine to the North. The Danube or Tanoia towards the North East, and the Po to the East, with innumerable rivers which join them, and which always run turbid with the soil carried by them to the sea.

The shores of the sea are constantly moving towards the middle of the sea and displace it from its original position. The lowest portion of the Mediterranean will be reserved for the bed and current of the Nile, the largest river that flows into that sea. And with it are grouped all its tributaries, which at first fell into the sea; as may be seen with the Po and its tributaries, which first fell into that sea, which between the Appenines and the German Alps was united to the Adriatic sea.

That the Gallic Alps are the highest part of Europe.


And of these I found some in the rocks of the high Appenines and mostly at the rock of La Vernia. [Footnote 6: Sasso della Vernia. The frowning rock between the sources of the Arno and the Tiber, as Dante describes this mountain, which is 1269 metres in height.

This note is written by the side of that given as No. 1020; but their connection does not make it clear what Leonardo's purpose was in writing it.]


At Parma, at 'La Campana' on the twenty-fifth of October 1514. [Footnote 2: Capano, an Inn.]

A note on the petrifactions, or fossils near Parma will be found under No. 989.]


A method for drying the marsh of Piombino. [Footnote: There is a slight sketch with this text in the original.—Piombino is also mentioned in Nos. 609, l. 55-58 (compare Pl. XXXV, 3, below). Also in No. 1035.]


The shepherds in the Romagna at the foot of the Apennines make peculiar large cavities in the mountains in the form of a horn, and on one side they fasten a horn. This little horn becomes one and the same with the said cavity and thus they produce by blowing into it a very loud noise. [Footnote: As to the Romagna see also No. 1046.]


A spring may be seen to rise in Sicily which at certain times of the year throws out chesnut leaves in quantities; but in Sicily chesnuts do not grow, hence it is evident that that spring must issue from some abyss in Italy and then flow beneath the sea to break forth in Sicily. [Footnote: The chesnut tree is very common in Sicily. In writing cicilia Leonardo meant perhaps Cilicia.]





a. Austria, a. Picardy. b. Saxony. b. Normandy. c. Nuremberg. c. Dauphine. d. Flanders.


a. Biscay. b. Castille. c. Galicia. d. Portugal. e. Taragona. f. Granada.

[Footnote: Two slightly sketched maps, one of Europe the other of Spain, are at the side of these notes.]


Perpignan. Roanne. Lyons. Paris. Ghent. Bruges. Holland.

[Footnote: Roana does not seem to mean here Rouen in Normandy, but is probably Roanne (Rodumna) on the upper Loire, Lyonnais (Dep. du Loire). This town is now unimportant, but in Leonardo's time was still a place of some consequence.]


At Bordeaux in Gascony the sea rises about 40 braccia before its ebb, and the river there is filled with salt water for more than a hundred and fifty miles; and the vessels which are repaired there rest high and dry on a high hill above the sea at low tide. [Footnote 2: This is obviously an exaggeration founded on inaccurate information. Half of 150 miles would be nearer the mark.]


The Rhone issues from the lake of Geneva and flows first to the West and then to the South, with a course of 400 miles and pours its waters into the Mediterranean.


c d is the garden at Blois; a b is the conduit of Blois, made in France by Fra Giocondo, b c is what is wanting in the height of that conduit, c d is the height of the garden at Blois, e f is the siphon of the conduit, b c, e f, f g is where the siphon discharges into the river. [Footnote: The tenor of this note (see lines 2 and 3) seems to me to indicate that this passage was not written in France, but was written from oral information. We have no evidence as to when this note may have been written beyond the circumstance that Fra Giocondo the Veronese Architect left France not before the year 1505. The greater part of the magnificent Chateau of Blois has now disappeared. Whether this note was made for a special purpose is uncertain. The original form and extent of the Chateau is shown in Androvet, Les plus excellents Bastiments de France, Paris MDCVII, and it may be observed that there is in the middle of the garden a Pavilion somewhat similar to that shown on Pl. LXXXVIII No. 7.

See S. DE LA SAUSSAYE, _Histoire du Chateau de Blois 4eme edition Blois et Paris_ p. 175: _En mariant sa fille ainee a Francois, comte d'Angouleme, Louis XII lui avait constitue en dot les comtes de Blois, d'Asti, de Coucy, de Montfort, d'Etampes et de Vertus. Une ordonnance de Francois I. lui laissa en_ 1516 _l'administration du comte de Blois.

Le roi fit commencer, dans la meme annee, les travaux de celle belle partie du chateau, connue sous le nom d'aile de Francois I, et dont nous avons donne la description au commencement de ce livre. Nous trouvons en effet, dans les archives du Baron de Foursanvault, une piece qui en fixe parfaitement la date. On y lit: "Je, Baymon Philippeaux, commis par le Roy a tenir le compte et fair le payement des bastiments, ediffices et reparacions que le dit seigneur fait faire en son chastu de Blois, confesse avoir eu et receu ... la somme de trois mille livres tournois ... le cinquieme jour de juillet, l'an mil cinq cent et seize._ P. 24: _Les jardins avaient ete decores avec beaucoup de luxe par les differents possesseurs du chateau. Il ne reste de tous les batiments qu'ils y eleverent que ceux des officiers charges de l'ad_ministration et de la culture des jardins, et un pavilion carre en pierre et en brique flanque de terrasses a chacun de ses angles. Quoique defigure par des mesures elevees sur les terrasses, cet edifice est tris-digne d'interet par l'originalite du plan, la decoration architecturale et le souvenir d'Anne de Bretagne qui le fit construire._ Felibien describes the garden as follows: _Le jardin haut etait fort bien dresse par grands compartimens de toutes sortes de figures, avec des allees de meuriers blancs et des palissades de coudriers. Deux grands berceaux de charpenterie separoient toute la longueur et la largeur du jardin, et dans les quatres angles des allees, ou ces berceaux se croissent, il y auoit 4 cabinets, de mesme charpenterie ... Il y a pas longtemps qu'il y auoit dans ce mesme jardin, a l'endroit ou se croissent les allees du milieu, un edifice de figure octogone, de plus de 7 thoises de diametre et de plus de neuf thoises de haut; avec 4 enfoncements en forme de niches dans les 4 angles des allies. Ce bastiment.... esloit de charpente mais d'un extraordinairement bien travaille. On y voyait particulierement la cordiliere qui regnati tout autour en forme de cordon. Car la Reyne affectait de la mettre nonseulement a ses armes et a ses chiffres mais de la faire representer en divers manieres dans tous les ouvrages qu'on lui faisait pour elle ... le bastiment estati couvert en forme de dome qui dans son milieu avait encore un plus petit dome, ou lanterne vitree au-dessus de laquelle estait une figure doree representant Saint Michel. Les deux domes estoient proprement couvert d'ardoise et de plomb dore par dehors; par dedans ils esloient lambrissez d'une menuiserie tres delicate. Au milieu de ce Salon il y avait un grand bassin octogone de marbre blanc, dont toutes les faces estoient enrichies de differentes sculptures, avec les armes et les chiffres du Roy Louis XII et de la Reine Anne, Dans ce bassin il y en avait un autre pose sur un piedestal lequel auoit sept piedz de diametre. Il estait de figure ronde a godrons, avec des masques et d'autres ornements tres scauamment taillez. Du milieu de ce deuxiesme bassin s'y levoit un autre petit piedestal qui portait un troisiesme bassin de trois pieds de diametre, aussy parfaitement bien taille; c'estoit de ce dernier bassin que jallissoit l'eau qui se rependoit en suitte dans les deux autres bassins. Les beaux ouvrages faits d'un marbre esgalement blanc et poli, furent brisez par la pesanteur de tout l'edifice, que les injures de l'air renverserent de fond en comble.]

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