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The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci
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characters, and with the left hand, so that any one who is not
practised in reading them, cannot understand them". The aid of a
mirror in reading reversed handwriting appears to me available
only for a first experimental reading. Speaking from my own
experience, the persistent use of it is too fatiguing and
inconvenient to be practically advisable, considering the enormous
mass of Manuscripts to be deciphered. And as, after all, Leonardo's
handwriting runs backwards just as all Oriental character runs
backwards—that is to say from right to left—the difficulty of
reading direct from the writing is not insuperable. This obvious
peculiarity in the writing is not, however, by any means the only
obstacle in the way of mastering the text. Leonardo made use of an
orthography peculiar to himself; he had a fashion of amalgamating
several short words into one long one, or, again, he would quite
arbitrarily divide a long word into two separate halves; added to
this there is no punctuation whatever to regulate the division and
construction of the sentences, nor are there any accents—and the
reader may imagine that such difficulties were almost sufficient to
make the task seem a desperate one to a beginner. It is therefore
not surprising that the good intentions of some of Leonardo s most
reverent admirers should have failed.
Leonardos literary labours in various departments both of Art and
of Science were those essentially of an enquirer, hence the
analytical method is that which he employs in arguing out his
investigations and dissertations. The vast structure of his scientific
theories is consequently built up of numerous separate researches,
and it is much to be lamented that he should never have collated
and arranged them. His love for detailed research—as it seems to
me—was the reason that in almost all the Manuscripts, the
different paragraphs appear to us to be in utter confusion; on one
and the same page, observations on the most dissimilar subjects
follow each other without any connection. A page, for instance,
will begin with some principles of astronomy, or the motion of the
earth; then come the laws of sound, and finally some precepts as to
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