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The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci
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A singular fatality has ruled the destiny of nearly all the most
famous of Leonardo da Vinci's works. Two of the three most
important were never completed, obstacles having arisen during
his life-time, which obliged him to leave them unfinished; namely
the Sforza Monument and the Wall-painting of the Battle of
Anghiari, while the third—the picture of the Last Supper at
Milan—has suffered irremediable injury from decay and the
repeated restorations to which it was recklessly subjected during
the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. Nevertheless, no other picture of
the Renaissance has become so wellknown and popular through
copies of every description.
Vasari says, and rightly, in his Life of Leonardo, "that he laboured
much more by his word than in fact or by deed", and the
biographer evidently had in his mind the numerous works in
Manuscript which have been preserved to this day. To us, now, it
seems almost inexplicable that these valuable and interesting
original texts should have remained so long unpublished, and
indeed forgotten. It is certain that during the XVIth and XVIIth
centuries their exceptional value was highly appreciated. This is
proved not merely by the prices which they commanded, but also
by the exceptional interest which has been attached to the change
of ownership of merely a few pages of Manuscript.
That, notwithstanding this eagerness to possess the Manuscripts,
their contents remained a mystery, can only be accounted for by
the many and great difficulties attending the task of deciphering
them. The handwriting is so peculiar that it requires considerable
practice to read even a few detached phrases, much more to solve
with any certainty the numerous difficulties of alternative readings,
and to master the sense as a connected whole. Vasari observes with
reference to Leonardos writing: "he wrote backwards, in rude
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