The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Volume 2
Leonardo Da Vinci
Part 4 out of 10
not--as has been said--conceal any part of the sun from our eye
Some say that the stars appear most brilliant at night in proportion
as they are higher up; and that if they had no light of their own,
the shadow of the earth which comes between them and the sun, would
darken them, since they would not face nor be faced by the solar
body. But those persons have not considered that the conical shadow
of the earth cannot reach many of the stars; and even as to those it
does reach, the cone is so much diminished that it covers very
little of the star's mass, and all the rest is illuminated by the
Why the planets appear larger in the East than they do overhead,
whereas the contrary should be the case, as they are 3500 miles
nearer to us when in mid sky than when on the horizon.
All the degrees of the elements, through which the images of the
celestial bodies pass to reach the eye, are equal curves and the
angles by which the central line of those images passes through
them, are unequal angles [Footnote 13: _inequali_, here and
elsewhere does not mean unequal in the sense of not being equal to
each other, but angles which are not right angles.]; and the
distance is greater, as is shown by the excess of _a b_ beyond _a
d_; and the enlargement of these celestial bodies on the horizon is
shown by the 9th of the 7th.
Observations on the stars.
To see the real nature of the planets open the covering and note at
the base [Footnote 4: _basa_. This probably alludes to some
instrument, perhaps the Camera obscura.] one single planet, and the
reflected movement of this base will show the nature of the said
planet; but arrange that the base may face only one at the time.
On history of astronomy.
Cicero says in [his book] De Divinatione that Astrology has been
practised five hundred seventy thousand years before the Trojan war.
[Footnote: The statement that CICERO, _De Divin._ ascribes the
discovery of astrology to a period 57000 years before the Trojan war
I believe to be quite erroneous. According to ERNESTI, _Clavis
Ciceroniana,_ CH. G. SCHULZ (_Lexic. Cicer._) and the edition of _De
Divin._ by GIESE the word Astrologia occurs only twice in CICERO:
_De Divin. II_, 42. _Ad Chaldaeorum monstra veniamus, de quibus
Eudoxus, Platonis auditor, in astrologia judicio doctissimorum
hominum facile princeps, sic opinatur (id quod scriptum reliquit):
Chaldaeis in praedictione et in notatione cujusque vitae ex natali
die minime esse credendum._" He then quotes the condemnatory verdict
of other philosophers as to the teaching of the Chaldaeans but says
nothing as to the antiquity and origin of astronomy. CICERO further
notes _De oratore_ I, 16 that Aratus was "_ignarus astrologiae_" but
that is all. So far as I know the word occurs nowhere else in
CICERO; and the word _Astronomia_ he does not seem to have used at
all. (H. MULLER-STRUBING.)]
Of time and its divisions (916-918).
Although time is included in the class of Continuous Quantities,
being indivisible and immaterial, it does not come entirely under
the head of Geometry, which represents its divisions by means of
figures and bodies of infinite variety, such as are seen to be
continuous in their visible and material properties. But only with
its first principles does it agree, that is with the Point and the
Line; the point may be compared to an instant of time, and the line
may be likened to the length of a certain quantity of time, and just
as a line begins and terminates in a point, so such a space of time.
begins and terminates in an instant. And whereas a line is
infinitely divisible, the divisibility of a space of time is of the
same nature; and as the divisions of the line may bear a certain
proportion to each other, so may the divisions of time.
[Footnote: This passage is repeated word for word on page 190b of
the same manuscript and this is accounted for by the text in Vol. I,
No. 4. Compare also No. 1216.]
Describe the nature of Time as distinguished from the Geometrical
Divide an hour into 3000 parts, and this you can do with a clock by
making the pendulum lighter or heavier.
Leonardo's researches as to the structure of the earth and sea were
made at a time, when the extended voyages of the Spaniards and
Portuguese had also excited a special interest in geographical
questions in Italy, and particularly in Tuscany. Still, it need
scarcely surprise us to find that in deeper questions, as to the
structure of the globe, the primitive state of the earth's surface,
and the like, he was far in advance of his time.
The number of passages which treat of such matters is relatively
considerable; like almost all Leonardo's scientific notes they deal
partly with theoretical and partly with practical questions. Some of
his theoretical views of the motion of water were collected in a
copied manuscript volume by an early transcriber, but without any
acknowledgment of the source whence they were derived. This copy is
now in the Library of the Barberini palace at Rome and was published
under the title: "De moto e misura dell'acqua," by FRANCESCO
CARDINALI, Bologna_ 1828. _In this work the texts are arranged under
the following titles:_ Libr. I. Della spera dell'acqua; Libr. II.
Del moto dell'acqua; Libr. III. Dell'onda dell'acqua; Libr. IV. Dei
retrosi d'acqua; Libr. V. Dell'acqua cadente; Libr. VI. Delle
rotture fatte dall'acqua; Libr. VII Delle cose portate dall'acqua;
Libr. VIII. Dell'oncia dell'acqua e delle canne; Libr. IX. De molini
e d'altri ordigni d'acqua.
_The large number of isolated observations scattered through the
manuscripts, accounts for our so frequently finding notes of new
schemes for the arrangement of those relating to water and its
motions, particularly in the Codex Atlanticus: I have printed
several of these plans as an introduction to the Physical Geography,
and I have actually arranged the texts in accordance with the clue
afforded by one of them which is undoubtedly one of the latest notes
referring to the subject (No._ 920_). The text given as No._ 930
_which is also taken from a late note-book of Leonardo's, served as
a basis for the arrangement of the first of the seven books--or
sections--, bearing the title: Of the Nature of Water_ (Dell'acque
_As I have not made it any part of this undertaking to print the
passages which refer to purely physical principles, it has also been
necessary to exclude those practical researches which, in accordance
with indications given in_ 920, _ought to come in as Books_ 13, 14
_and_ 15. _I can only incidentally mention here that Leonardo--as it
seems to me, especially in his youth--devoted a great deal of
attention to the construction of mills. This is proved by a number
of drawings of very careful and minute execution, which are to be
found in the Codex Atlanticus. Nor was it possible to include his
considerations on the regulation of rivers, the making of canals and
so forth (No._ 920, _Books_ 10, 11 _and_ 12_); but those passages in
which the structure of a canal is directly connected with notices of
particular places will be found duly inserted under section XVII
(Topographical notes). In Vol. I, No._ 5 _the text refers to
canal-making in general._
_On one point only can the collection of passages included under the
general heading of Physical Geography claim to be complete. When
comparing and sorting the materials for this work I took particular
care not to exclude or omit any text in which a geographical name
was mentioned even incidentally, since in all such researches the
chief interest, as it appeared to me, attached to the question
whether these acute observations on the various local
characteristics of mountains, rivers or seas, had been made by
Leonardo himself, and on the spot. It is self-evident that the few
general and somewhat superficial observations on the Rhine and the
Danube, on England and Flanders, must have been obtained from maps
or from some informants, and in the case of Flanders Leonardo
himself acknowledges this (see No._ 1008_). But that most of the
other and more exact observations were made, on the spot, by
Leonardo himself, may be safely assumed from their method and the
style in which he writes of them; and we should bear it in mind that
in all investigations, of whatever kind, experience is always spoken
of as the only basis on which he relies. Incidentally, as in No._
984, _he thinks it necessary to allude to the total absence of all
Schemes for the arrangement of the materials (919-928).
These books contain in the beginning: Of the nature of water itself
in its motions; the others treat of the effects of its currents,
which change the world in its centre and its shape.
DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK.
Book 1 of water in itself.
Book 2 of the sea.
Book 3 of subterranean rivers.
Book 4 of rivers.
Book 5 of the nature of the abyss.
Book 6 of the obstacles.
Book 7 of gravels.
Book 8 of the surface of water.
Book 9 of the things placed therein.
Book 10 of the repairing of rivers.
Book 11 of conduits.
Book 12 of canals.
Book 13 of machines turned by water.
Book 14 of raising water.
Book 15 of matters worn away by water.
First you shall make a book treating of places occupied by fresh
waters, and the second by salt waters, and the third, how by the
disappearance of these, our parts of the world were made lighter and
in consequence more remote from the centre of the world.
First write of all water, in each of its motions; then describe all
its bottoms and their various materials, always referring to the
propositions concerning the said waters; and let the order be good,
for otherwise the work will be confused.
Describe all the forms taken by water from its greatest to its
smallest wave, and their causes.
Book 9, of accidental risings of water.
THE ORDER OF THE BOOK.
Place at the beginning what a river can effect.
A book of driving back armies by the force of a flood made by
A book showing how the waters safely bring down timber cut in the
A book of boats driven against the impetus of rivers.
A book of raising large bridges higher. Simply by the swelling of
A book of guarding against the impetus of rivers so that towns may
not be damaged by them.
A book of the ordering of rivers so as to preserve their banks.
A book of the mountains, which would stand forth and become land, if
our hemisphere were to be uncovered by the water.
A book of the earth carried down by the waters to fill up the great
abyss of the seas.
A book of the ways in which a tempest may of itself clear out filled
A book of the shores of rivers and of their permanency.
A book of how to deal with rivers, so that they may keep their
bottom scoured by their own flow near the cities they pass.
A book of how to make or to repair the foundations for bridges over
A book of the repairs which ought to be made in walls and banks of
rivers where the water strikes them.
A book of the formation of hills of sand or gravel at great depths
Water gives the first impetus to its motion.
A book of the levelling of waters by various means,
A book of diverting rivers from places where they do mischief.
A book of guiding rivers which occupy too much ground.
A book of parting rivers into several branches and making them
A book of the waters which with various currents pass through seas.
A book of deepening the beds of rivers by means of currents of
A book of controlling rivers so that the little beginnings of
mischief, caused by them, may not increase.
A book of the various movements of waters passing through channels
of different forms.
A book of preventing small rivers from diverting the larger one into
which their waters run.
A book of the lowest level which can be found in the current of the
surface of rivers.
A book of the origin of rivers which flow from the high tops of
A book of the various motions of waters in their rivers.
 Of inequality in the concavity of a ship. [Footnote 1: The first
line of this passage was added subsequently, evidently as a
correction of the following line.]
 A book of the inequality in the curve of the sides of ships.
 A book of the inequality in the position of the tiller.
 A book of the inequality in the keel of ships.
 A book of various forms of apertures by which water flows out.
 A book of water contained in vessels with air, and of its
 A book of the motion of water through a syphon. [Footnote 7:
_cicognole_, see No. 966, 11, 17.]
 A book of the meetings and union of waters coming from different
 A book of the various forms of the banks through which rivers
 A book of the various forms of shoals formed under the sluices
 A book of the windings and meanderings of the currents of
 A book of the various places whence the waters of rivers are
 A book of the configuration of the shores of rivers and of
 A book of the perpendicular fall of water on various objects.
 Abook of the course of water when it is impeded in various
 A book of the various forms of the obstacles which impede the
course of waters.
 A book of the concavity and globosity formed round various
objects at the bottom.
 Abook of conducting navigable canals above or beneath the
rivers which intersect them.
 A book of the soils which absorb water in canals and of
 Abook of creating currents for rivers, which quit their beds,
[and] for rivers choked with soil.
THE BEGINNING OF THE TREATISE ON WATER.
By the ancients man has been called the world in miniature; and
certainly this name is well bestowed, because, inasmuch as man is
composed of earth, water, air and fire, his body resembles that of
the earth; and as man has in him bones the supports and framework of
his flesh, the world has its rocks the supports of the earth; as man
has in him a pool of blood in which the lungs rise and fall in
breathing, so the body of the earth has its ocean tide which
likewise rises and falls every six hours, as if the world breathed;
as in that pool of blood veins have their origin, which ramify all
over the human body, so likewise the ocean sea fills the body of the
earth with infinite springs of water. The body of the earth lacks
sinews and this is, because the sinews are made expressely for
movements and, the world being perpetually stable, no movement takes
place, and no movement taking place, muscles are not necessary.
--But in all other points they are much alike.
OF THE NATURE OF WATER.
The arrangement of Book I.
THE ORDER OF THE FIRST BOOK ON WATER.
Define first what is meant by height and depth; also how the
elements are situated one inside another. Then, what is meant by
solid weight and by liquid weight; but first what weight and
lightness are in themselves. Then describe why water moves, and why
its motion ceases; then why it becomes slower or more rapid; besides
this, how it always falls, being in contact with the air but lower
than the air. And how water rises in the air by means of the heat of
the sun, and then falls again in rain; again, why water springs
forth from the tops of mountains; and if the water of any spring
higher than the ocean can pour forth water higher than the surface
of that ocean. And how all the water that returns to the ocean is
higher than the sphere of waters. And how the waters of the
equatorial seas are higher than the waters of the North, and higher
beneath the body of the sun than in any part of the equatorial
circle; for experiment shows that under the heat of a burning brand
the water near the brand boils, and the water surrounding this
ebullition always sinks with a circular eddy. And how the waters of
the North are lower than the other seas, and more so as they become
colder, until they are converted into ice.
Definitions (931. 932).
OF WHAT IS WATER.
Among the four elements water is the second both in weight and in
THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK ON WATER.
Sea is the name given to that water which is wide and deep, in which
the waters have not much motion.
[Footnote: Only the beginning of this passage is here given, the
remainder consists of definitions which have no direct bearing on
Of the surface of the water in relation to the globe (933-936).
The centres of the sphere of water are two, one universal and common
to all water, the other particular. The universal one is that which
is common to all waters not in motion, which exist in great
quantities. As canals, ditches, ponds, fountains, wells, dead
rivers, lakes, stagnant pools and seas, which, although they are at
various levels, have each in itself the limits of their superficies
equally distant from the centre of the earth, such as lakes placed
at the tops of high mountains; as the lake near Pietra Pana and the
lake of the Sybil near Norcia; and all the lakes that give rise to
great rivers, as the Ticino from Lago Maggiore, the Adda from the
lake of Como, the Mincio from the lake of Garda, the Rhine from the
lakes of Constance and of Chur, and from the lake of Lucerne, like
the Tigris which passes through Asia Minor carrying with it the
waters of three lakes, one above the other at different heights of
which the highest is Munace, the middle one Pallas, and the lowest
Triton; the Nile again flows from three very high lakes in Ethiopia.
[Footnote 5: _Pietra Pana_, a mountain near Florence. If for Norcia,
we may read Norchia, the remains of the Etruscan city near Viterbo,
there can be no doubt that by '_Lago della Sibilla_'--a name not
known elsewhere, so far as I can learn--Leonardo meant _Lago di
Vico_ (Lacus Ciminus, Aen. 7).]
OF THE CENTRE OF THE OCEAN.
The centre of the sphere of waters is the true centre of the globe
of our world, which is composed of water and earth, having the shape
of a sphere. But, if you want to find the centre of the element of
the earth, this is placed at a point equidistant from the surface of
the ocean, and not equidistant from the surface of the earth; for it
is evident that this globe of earth has nowhere any perfect
rotundity, excepting in places where the sea is, or marshes or other
still waters. And every part of the earth that rises above the water
is farther from the centre.
OF THE SEA WHICH CHANGES THE WEIGHT OF THE EARTH.
The shells, oysters, and other similar animals, which originate in
sea-mud, bear witness to the changes of the earth round the centre
of our elements. This is proved thus: Great rivers always run
turbid, being coloured by the earth, which is stirred by the
friction of their waters at the bottom and on their shores; and this
wearing disturbs the face of the strata made by the layers of
shells, which lie on the surface of the marine mud, and which were
produced there when the salt waters covered them; and these strata
were covered over again from time to time, with mud of various
thickness, or carried down to the sea by the rivers and floods of
more or less extent; and thus these layers of mud became raised to
such a height, that they came up from the bottom to the air. At the
present time these bottoms are so high that they form hills or high
mountains, and the rivers, which wear away the sides of these
mountains, uncover the strata of these shells, and thus the softened
side of the earth continually rises and the antipodes sink closer to
the centre of the earth, and the ancient bottoms of the seas have
become mountain ridges.
Let the earth make whatever changes it may in its weight, the
surface of the sphere of waters can never vary in its equal distance
from the centre of the world.
Of the proportion of the mass of water to that of the earth (937.
WHETHER THE EARTH IS LESS THAN THE WATER.
Some assert that it is true that the earth, which is not covered by
water is much less than that covered by water. But considering the
size of 7000 miles in diameter which is that of this earth, we may
conclude the water to be of small depth.
OF THE EARTH.
The great elevations of the peaks of the mountains above the sphere
of the water may have resulted from this that: a very large portion
of the earth which was filled with water that is to say the vast
cavern inside the earth may have fallen in a vast part of its vault
towards the centre of the earth, being pierced by means of the
course of the springs which continually wear away the place where
Sinking in of countries like the Dead Sea in Syria, that is Sodom
It is of necessity that there should be more water than land, and
the visible portion of the sea does not show this; so that there
must be a great deal of water inside the earth, besides that which
rises into the lower air and which flows through rivers and springs.
[Footnote: The small sketch below on the left, is placed in the
original close to the text referring to the Dead Sea.]
The theory of Plato.
THE FIGURES OF THE ELEMENTS.
Of the figures of the elements; and first as against those who deny
the opinions of Plato, and who say that if the elements include one
another in the forms attributed to them by Plato they would cause a
vacuum one within the other. I say it is not true, and I here prove
it, but first I desire to propound some conclusions. It is not
necessary that the elements which include each other should be of
corresponding magnitude in all the parts, of that which includes and
of that which is included. We see that the sphere of the waters
varies conspicuously in mass from the surface to the bottom, and
that, far from investing the earth when that was in the form of a
cube that is of 8 angles as Plato will have it, that it invests the
earth which has innumerable angles of rock covered by the water and
various prominences and concavities, and yet no vacuum is generated
between the earth and water; again, the air invests the sphere of
waters together with the mountains and valleys, which rise above
that sphere, and no vacuum remains between the earth and the air, so
that any one who says a vacuum is generated, speaks foolishly.
But to Plato I would reply that the surface of the figures which
according to him the elements would have, could not exist.
That the flow of rivers proves the slope of the land.
PROVES HOW THE EARTH IS NOT GLOBULAR AND NOT BEING GLOBULAR CANNOT
HAVE A COMMON CENTRE.
We see the Nile come from Southern regions and traverse various
provinces, running towards the North for a distance of 3000 miles
and flow into the Mediterranean by the shores of Egypt; and if we
will give to this a fall of ten braccia a mile, as is usually
allowed to the course of rivers in general, we shall find that the
Nile must have its mouth ten miles lower than its source. Again, we
see the Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube starting from the German
parts, almost the centre of Europe, and having a course one to the
East, the other to the North, and the last to Southern seas. And if
you consider all this you will see that the plains of Europe in
their aggregate are much higher than the high peaks of the maritime
mountains; think then how much their tops must be above the sea
Theory of the elevation of water within the mountains.
OF THE HEAT THAT IS IN THE WORLD.
Where there is life there is heat, and where vital heat is, there is
movement of vapour. This is proved, inasmuch as we see that the
element of fire by its heat always draws to itself damp vapours and
thick mists as opaque clouds, which it raises from seas as well as
lakes and rivers and damp valleys; and these being drawn by degrees
as far as the cold region, the first portion stops, because heat and
moisture cannot exist with cold and dryness; and where the first
portion stops the rest settle, and thus one portion after another
being added, thick and dark clouds are formed. They are often wafted
about and borne by the winds from one region to another, where by
their density they become so heavy that they fall in thick rain; and
if the heat of the sun is added to the power of the element of fire,
the clouds are drawn up higher still and find a greater degree of
cold, in which they form ice and fall in storms of hail. Now the
same heat which holds up so great a weight of water as is seen to
rain from the clouds, draws them from below upwards, from the foot
of the mountains, and leads and holds them within the summits of the
mountains, and these, finding some fissure, issue continuously and
The relative height of the surface of the sea to that of the land
OF THE SEA, WHICH TO MANY FOOLS APPEARS TO BE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH
WHICH FORMS ITS SHORE.
_b d_ is a plain through which a river flows to the sea; this plain
ends at the sea, and since in fact the dry land that is uncovered is
not perfectly level--for, if it were, the river would have no
motion--as the river does move, this place is a slope rather than a
plain; hence this plain _d b_ so ends where the sphere of water
begins that if it were extended in a continuous line to _b a_ it
would go down beneath the sea, whence it follows that the sea _a c
b_ looks higher than the dry land.
Obviously no portions of dry land left uncovered by water can ever
be lower than the surface of the watery sphere.
OF CERTAIN PERSONS WHO SAY THE WATERS WERE HIGHER THAN THE DRY LAND.
Certainly I wonder not a little at the common opinion which is
contrary to truth, but held by the universal consent of the judgment
of men. And this is that all are agreed that the surface of the sea
is higher than the highest peaks of the mountains; and they allege
many vain and childish reasons, against which I will allege only one
simple and short reason; We see plainly that if we could remove the
shores of the sea, it would invest the whole earth and make it a
perfect sphere. Now, consider how much earth would be carried away
to enable the waves of the sea to cover the world; therefore that
which would be carried away must be higher than the sea-shore.
THE OPINION OF SOME PERSONS WHO SAY THAT THE WATER OF SOME SEAS IS
HIGHER THAN THE HIGHEST SUMMITS OF MOUNTAINS; AND NEVERTHELESS THE
WATER WAS FORCED UP TO THESE SUMMITS.
Water would not move from place to place if it were not that it
seeks the lowest level and by a natural consequence it never can
return to a height like that of the place where it first on issuing
from the mountain came to light. And that portion of the sea which,
in your vain imagining, you say was so high that it flowed over the
summits of the high mountains, for so many centuries would be
swallowed up and poured out again through the issue from these
mountains. You can well imagine that all the time that Tigris and
have flowed from the summits of the mountains of Armenia, it must be
believed that all the water of the ocean has passed very many times
through these mouths. And do you not believe that the Nile must have
sent more water into the sea than at present exists of all the
element of water? Undoubtedly, yes. And if all this water had fallen
away from this body of the earth, this terrestrial machine would
long since have been without water. Whence we may conclude that the
water goes from the rivers to the sea, and from the sea to the
rivers, thus constantly circulating and returning, and that all the
sea and the rivers have passed through the mouth of the Nile an
infinite number of times [Footnote: _Moti Armeni, Ermini_ in the
original, in M. RAVAISSON'S transcript _"monti ernini [le loro
ruine?]"_. He renders this _"Le Tigre et l'Euphrate se sont deverses
par les sommets des montagnes [avec leurs eaux destructives?] on
pent cro're" &c. Leonardo always writes _Ermini, Erminia_, for
_Armeni, Armenia_ (Arabic: _Irminiah_). M. RAVAISSON also deviates
from the original in his translation of the following passage: "_Or
tu ne crois pas que le Nil ait mis plus d'eau dans la mer qu'il n'y
en a a present dans tout l'element de l'eau. Il est certain que si
cette eau etait tombee_" &c.]
ON THE OCEAN.
Refutation of Pliny's theory as to the saltness of the sea (946.
WHY WATER IS SALT.
Pliny says in his second book, chapter 103, that the water of the
sea is salt because the heat of the sun dries up the moisture and
drinks it up; and this gives to the wide stretching sea the savour
of salt. But this cannot be admitted, because if the saltness of the
sea were caused by the heat of the sun, there can be no doubt that
lakes, pools and marshes would be so much the more salt, as their
waters have less motion and are of less depth; but experience shows
us, on the contrary, that these lakes have their waters quite free
from salt. Again it is stated by Pliny in the same chapter that this
saltness might originate, because all the sweet and subtle portions
which the heat attracts easily being taken away, the more bitter and
coarser part will remain, and thus the water on the surface is
fresher than at the bottom [Footnote 22: Compare No. 948.]; but this
is contradicted by the same reason given above, which is, that the
same thing would happen in marshes and other waters, which are dried
up by the heat. Again, it has been said that the saltness of the sea
is the sweat of the earth; to this it may be answered that all the
springs of water which penetrate through the earth, would then be
salt. But the conclusion is, that the saltness of the sea must
proceed from the many springs of water which, as they penetrate into
the earth, find mines of salt and these they dissolve in part, and
carry with them to the ocean and the other seas, whence the clouds,
the begetters of rivers, never carry it up. And the sea would be
salter in our times than ever it was at any time; and if the
adversary were to say that in infinite time the sea would dry up or
congeal into salt, to this I answer that this salt is restored to
the earth by the setting free of that part of the earth which rises
out of the sea with the salt it has acquired, and the rivers return
it to the earth under the sea.
[Footnote: See PLINY, Hist. Nat. II, CIII [C]. _Itaque Solis ardore
siccatur liquor: et hoc esse masculum sidus accepimus, torrens
cuncta sorbensque._ (cp. CIV.) _Sic mari late patenti saporem
incoqui salis, aut quia exhausto inde dulci tenuique, quod facillime
trahat vis ignea, omne asperius crassiusque linquatur: ideo summa
aequorum aqua dulciorem profundam; hanc esse veriorem causam, quam
quod mare terrae sudor sit aeternus: aut quia plurimum ex arido
misceatur illi vapore: aut quia terrae natura sicut medicatas aquas
inficiat_ ... (cp. CV): _altissimum mare XV. stadiorum Fabianus
tradit. Alii n Ponto coadverso Coraxorum gentis (vocant B Ponti)
trecentis fere a continenti stadiis immensam altitudinem maris
tradunt, vadis nunquam repertis._ (cp. CVI [CIII]) _Mirabilius id
faciunt aquae dulces, juxta mare, ut fistulis emicantes. Nam nec
aquarum natura a miraculis cessat. Dulces mari invehuntur, leviores
haud dubie. Ideo et marinae, quarum natura gravior, magis invecta
sustinent. Quaedam vero et dulces inter se supermeant alias._]
For the third and last reason we will say that salt is in all
created things; and this we learn from water passed over the ashes
and cinders of burnt things; and the urine of every animal, and the
superfluities issuing from their bodies, and the earth into which
all things are converted by corruption.
But,--to put it better,--given that the world is everlasting, it
must be admitted that its population will also be eternal; hence the
human species has eternally been and would be consumers of salt; and
if all the mass of the earth were to be turned into salt, it would
not suffice for all human food [Footnote 27: That is, on the
supposition that salt, once consumed, disappears for ever.]; whence
we are forced to admit, either that the species of salt must be
everlasting like the world, or that it dies and is born again like
the men who devour it. But as experience teaches us that it does not
die, as is evident by fire, which does not consume it, and by water
which becomes salt in proportion to the quantity dissolved in
it,--and when it is evaporated the salt always remains in the
original quantity--it must pass through the bodies of men either in
the urine or the sweat or other excretions where it is found again;
and as much salt is thus got rid of as is carried every year into
towns; therefore salt is dug in places where there is urine.-- Sea
hogs and sea winds are salt.
We will say that the rains which penetrate the earth are what is
under the foundations of cities with their inhabitants, and are what
restore through the internal passages of the earth the saltness
taken from the sea; and that the change in the place of the sea,
which has been over all the mountains, caused it to be left there in
the mines found in those mountains, &c.
The characteristics of sea water (948. 949).
The waters of the salt sea are fresh at the greatest depths.
THAT THE OCEAN DOES NOT PENETRATE UNDER THE EARTH.
The ocean does not penetrate under the earth, and this we learn from
the many and various springs of fresh water which, in many parts of
the ocean make their way up from the bottom to the surface. The same
thing is farther proved by wells dug beyond the distance of a mile
from the said ocean, which fill with fresh water; and this happens
because the fresh water is lighter than salt water and consequently
Which weighs most, water when frozen or when not frozen?
FRESH WATER PENETRATES MORE AGAINST SALT WATER THAN SALT WATER
AGAINST FRESH WATER.
That fresh water penetrates more against salt water, than salt water
against fresh is proved by a thin cloth dry and old, hanging with
the two opposite ends equally low in the two different waters, the
surfaces of which are at an equal level; and it will then be seen
how much higher the fresh water will rise in this piece of linen
than the salt; by so much is the fresh lighter than the salt.
On the formation of Gulfs (950. 951).
All inland seas and the gulfs of those seas, are made by rivers
which flow into the sea.
HERE THE REASON IS GIVEN OF THE EFFECTS PRODUCED BY THE WATERS IN
THE ABOVE MENTIONED PLACE.
All the lakes and all the gulfs of the sea and all inland seas are
due to rivers which distribute their waters into them, and from
impediments in their downfall into the Mediterranean --which divides
Africa from Europe and Europe from Asia by means of the Nile and the
Don which pour their waters into it. It is asked what impediment is
great enough to stop the course of the waters which do not reach the
On the encroachments of the sea on the land and vice versa
A wave of the sea always breaks in front of its base, and that
portion of the crest will then be lowest which before was highest.
[Footnote: The page of FRANCESCO DI GIORGIO'S _Trattato_, on which
Leonardo has written this remark, contains some notes on the
construction of dams, harbours &c.]
That the shores of the sea constantly acquire more soil towards the
middle of the sea; that the rocks and promontories of the sea are
constantly being ruined and worn away; that the Mediterranean seas
will in time discover their bottom to the air, and all that will be
left will be the channel of the greatest river that enters it; and
this will run to the ocean and pour its waters into that with those
of all the rivers that are its tributaries.
How the river Po, in a short time might dry up the Adriatic sea in
the same way as it has dried up a large part of Lombardy.
The ebb and flow of the tide (955-960).
Where there is a larger quantity of water, there is a greater flow
and ebb, but the contrary in narrow waters.
Look whether the sea is at its greatest flow when the moon is half
way over our hemisphere [on the meridian].
Whether the flow and ebb are caused by the moon or the sun, or are
the breathing of this terrestrial machine. That the flow and ebb are
different in different countries and seas.
[Footnote: 1. Allusion may here be made to the mythological
explanation of the ebb and flow given in the Edda. Utgardloki says
to Thor (Gylfaginning 48): "When thou wert drinking out of the horn,
and it seemed to thee that it was slow in emptying a wonder befell,
which I should not have believed possible: the other end of the horn
lay in the sea, which thou sawest not; but when thou shalt go to the
sea, thou shalt see how much thou hast drunk out of it. And that men
now call the ebb tide."
Several passages in various manuscripts treat of the ebb and flow.
In collecting them I have been guided by the rule only to transcribe
those which named some particular spot.]
Book 9 of the meeting of rivers and their flow and ebb. The cause is
the same in the sea, where it is caused by the straits of Gibraltar.
And again it is caused by whirlpools.
OF THE FLOW AND EBB.
All seas have their flow and ebb in the same period, but they seem
to vary because the days do not begin at the same time throughout
the universe; in such wise as that when it is midday in our
hemisphere, it is midnight in the opposite hemisphere; and at the
Eastern boundary of the two hemispheres the night begins which
follows on the day, and at the Western boundary of these hemispheres
begins the day, which follows the night from the opposite side.
Hence it is to be inferred that the above mentioned swelling and
diminution in the height of the seas, although they take place in
one and the same space of time, are seen to vary from the above
mentioned causes. The waters are then withdrawn into the fissures
which start from the depths of the sea and which ramify inside the
body of the earth, corresponding to the sources of rivers, which are
constantly taking from the bottom of the sea the water which has
flowed into it. A sea of water is incessantly being drawn off from
the surface of the sea. And if you should think that the moon,
rising at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean sea must there begin
to attract to herself the waters of the sea, it would follow that we
must at once see the effect of it at the Eastern end of that sea.
Again, as the Mediterranean sea is about the eighth part of the
circumference of the aqueous sphere, being 3000 miles long, while
the flow and ebb only occur 4 times in 24 hours, these results would
not agree with the time of 24 hours, unless this Mediterranean sea
were six thousand miles in length; because if such a superabundance
of water had to pass through the straits of Gibraltar in running
behind the moon, the rush of the water through that strait would be
so great, and would rise to such a height, that beyond the straits
it would for many miles rush so violently into the ocean as to cause
floods and tremendous seething, so that it would be impossible to
pass through. This agitated ocean would afterwards return the waters
it had received with equal fury to the place they had come from, so
that no one ever could pass through those straits. Now experience
shows that at every hour they are passed in safety, but when the
wind sets in the same direction as the current, the strong ebb
increases [Footnote 23: In attempting to get out of the
Mediterranean, vessels are sometimes detained for a considerable
time; not merely by the causes mentioned by Leonardo but by the
constant current flowing eastwards through the middle of the straits
of Gibraltar.]. The sea does not raise the water that has issued
from the straits, but it checks them and this retards the tide; then
it makes up with furious haste for the time it has lost until the
end of the ebb movement.
That the flow and ebb are not general; for on the shore at Genoa
there is none, at Venice two braccia, between England and Flanders
18 braccia. That in the straits of Sicily the current is very strong
because all the waters from the rivers that flow into the Adriatic
[Footnote: A few more recent data may be given here to facilitate
comparison. In the Adriatic the tide rises 2 and 1/2 feet, at
Terracina 1 1/4. In the English channel between Calais and Kent it
rises from 18 to 20 feet. In the straits of Messina it rises no more
than 2 1/2 feet, and that only in stormy weather, but the current is
all the stronger. When Leonardo accounts for this by the southward
flow of all the Italian rivers along the coasts, the explanation is
at least based on a correct observation; namely that a steady
current flows southwards along the coast of Calabria and another
northwards, along the shores of Sicily; he seems to infer, from the
direction of the fust, that the tide in the Adriatic is caused by
In the West, near to Flanders, the sea rises and decreases every 6
hours about 20 braccia, and 22 when the moon is in its favour; but
20 braccia is the general rule, and this rule, as it is evident,
cannot have the moon for its cause. This variation in the increase
and decrease of the sea every 6 hours may arise from the damming up
of the waters, which are poured into the Mediterranean by the
quantity of rivers from Africa, Asia and Europe, which flow into
that sea, and the waters which are given to it by those rivers; it
pours them to the ocean through the straits of Gibraltar, between
Abila and Calpe [Footnote 5: _Abila_, Lat. _Abyla_, Gr. , now
Sierra _Ximiera_ near Ceuta; _Calpe_, Lat. _Calpe_. Gr., now
Gibraltar. Leonardo here uses the ancient names of the rocks, which
were known as the Pillars of Hercules.]. That ocean extends to the
island of England and others farther North, and it becomes dammed up
and kept high in various gulfs. These, being seas of which the
surface is remote from the centre of the earth, have acquired a
weight, which as it is greater than the force of the incoming waters
which cause it, gives this water an impetus in the contrary
direction to that in which it came and it is borne back to meet the
waters coming out of the straits; and this it does most against the
straits of Gibraltar; these, so long as this goes on, remain dammed
up and all the water which is poured out meanwhile by the
aforementioned rivers, is pent up [in the Mediterranean]; and this
might be assigned as the cause of its flow and ebb, as is shown in
the 21st of the 4th of my theory.
SUBTERRANEAN WATER COURSES.
Theory of the circulation of the waters (961. 962).
Very large rivers flow under ground.
This is meant to represent the earth cut through in the middle,
showing the depths of the sea and of the earth; the waters start
from the bottom of the seas, and ramifying through the earth they
rise to the summits of the mountains, flowing back by the rivers and
returning to the sea.
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. 
These waters traverse the body of the earth with infinite
[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
WHETHER WATER RISES FROM THE SEA TO THE TOPS OF MOUNTAINS.
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.
OF SPRINGS OF WATER ON THE TOPS OF MOUNTAINS.
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]
IN CONFIRMATION OF WHY THE WATER GOES TO THE TOPS OF MOUNTAINS.
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.
OF THE ORIGIN OF RIVERS.
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
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.
 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
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.
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
OF THE MOVEMENT OF A SUDDEN RUSH MADE BY A RIVER IN ITS BED
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
Whirlpools, that is to say caverns; that is to say places left by
On the alterations in the channels of rivers.
OF THE VIBRATION OF THE EARTH.
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
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.
OF THE SEA WHICH ENCIRCLES THE EARTH.
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.
A DOUBTFUL POINT.
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
[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
That marine shells could not go up the mountains.
OF THE DELUGE AND OF MARINE SHELLS.
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).
A CONFUTATION OF THOSE WHO SAY THAT SHELLS MAY HAVE BEEN CARRIED TO
A DISTANCE OF MANY DAYS' JOURNEY FROM THE SEA BY THE DELUGE, WHICH
WAS SO HIGH AS TO BE ABOVE THOSE HEIGHTS.
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.]
ON THE ATMOSPHERE.
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
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.]
_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
_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).
CANAL OF FLORENCE.
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.
Back to Full Books