The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci


The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 25

AN ARCH LOADED OVER THE CROWN WILL GIVE WAY AT THE LEFT HAND AND RIGHT HAND QUARTERS.

This is proved by the 7th of this which says: The opposite ends of the support are equally pressed upon by the weight suspended to them; hence the weight shown at f is felt at b c, that is half at each extremity; and by the third which says: in a support of equal strength [throughout] that portion will give way soonest which is farthest from its attachment; whence it follows that d being equally distant from f, e .....

If the centering of the arch does not settle as the arch settles, the mortar, as it dries, will shrink and detach itself from the bricks between which it was laid to keep them together; and as it thus leaves them disjoined the vault will remain loosely built, and the rains will soon destroy it.

786.

ON THE STRENGTH AND NATURE OF ARCHES, AND WHERE THEY ARE STRONG OR WEAK; AND THE SAME AS TO COLUMNS.

That part of the arch which is nearer to the horizontal offers least resistance to the weight placed on it.

When the triangle a z n, by settling, drives backwards the 2/3 of each 1/2 circle that is a s and in the same way z m, the reason is that a is perpendicularly over b and so likewise z is above f.

Either half of an arch, if overweighted, will break at 2/3 of its height, the point which corresponds to the perpendicular line above the middle of its bases, as is seen at a b; and this happens because the weight tends to fall past the point r.--And if, against its nature it should tend to fall towards the point s the arch n s would break precisely in its middle. If the arch n s were of a single piece of timber, if the weight placed at n should tend to fall in the line n m, the arch would break in the middle of the arch e m, otherwise it will break at one third from the top at the point a because from a to n the arch is nearer to the horizontal than from a to o and from o to s, in proportion as p t is greater than t n, a o will be stronger than a n and likewise in proportion as s o is stronger than o a, r p will be greater than p t.

The arch which is doubled to four times of its thickness will bear four times the weight that the single arch could carry, and more in proportion as the diameter of its thickness goes a smaller number of times into its length. That is to say that if the thickness of the single arch goes ten times into its length, the thickness of the doubled arch will go five times into its length. Hence as the thickness of the double arch goes only half as many times into its length as that of the single arch does, it is reasonable that it should carry half as much more weight as it would have to carry if it were in direct proportion to the single arch. Hence as this double arch has 4 times the thickness of the single arch, it would seem that it ought to bear 4 times the weight; but by the above rule it is shown that it will bear exactly 8 times as much.

THAT PIER, WHICH is CHARGED MOST UNEQUALLY, WILL SOONEST GIVE WAY.

The column c b, being charged with an equal weight, [on each side] will be most durable, and the other two outward columns require on the part outside of their centre as much pressure as there is inside of their centre, that is, from the centre of the column, towards the middle of the arch.

Arches which depend on chains for their support will not be very durable.

THAT ARCH WILL BE OF LONGER DURATION WHICH HAS A GOOD ABUTMENT OPPOSED TO ITS THRUST.

The arch itself tends to fall. If the arch be 30 braccia and the interval between the walls which carry it be 20, we know that 30 cannot pass through the 20 unless 20 becomes likewise 30. Hence the arch being crushed by the excess of weight, and the walls offering insufficient resistance, part, and afford room between them, for the fall of the arch.

But if you do not wish to strengthen the arch with an iron tie you must give it such abutments as can resist the thrust; and you can do this thus: fill up the spandrels m n with stones, and direct the lines of the joints between them to the centre of the circle of the arch, and the reason why this makes the arch durable is this. We know very well that if the arch is loaded with an excess of weight above its quarter as a b, the wall f g will be thrust outwards because the arch would yield in that direction; if the other quarter b c were loaded, the wall f g would be thrust inwards, if it were not for the line of stones x y which resists this.

787.

PLAN.

Here it is shown how the arches made in the side of the octagon thrust the piers of the angles outwards, as is shown by the line h c and by the line t d which thrust out the pier m; that is they tend to force it away from the centre of such an octagon.

788.

An Experiment to show that a weight placed on an arch does not discharge itself entirely on its columns; on the contrary the greater the weight placed on the arches, the less the arch transmits the weight to the columns. The experiment is the following. Let a man be placed on a steel yard in the middle of the shaft of a well, then let him spread out his hands and feet between the walls of the well, and you will see him weigh much less on the steel yard; give him a weight on the shoulders, you will see by experiment, that the greater the weight you give him the greater effort he will make in spreading his arms and legs, and in pressing against the wall and the less weight will be thrown on the steel yard.

IV.

ON FOUNDATIONS, THE NATURE OF THE GROUND AND SUPPORTS.

789.

The first and most important thing is stability.

As to the foundations of the component parts of temples and other public buildings, the depths of the foundations must bear the same proportions to each other as the weight of material which is to be placed upon them.

Every part of the depth of earth in a given space is composed of layers, and each layer is composed of heavier or lighter materials, the lowest being the heaviest. And this can be proved, because these layers have been formed by the sediment from water carried down to the sea, by the current of rivers which flow into it. The heaviest part of this sediment was that which was first thrown down, and so on by degrees; and this is the action of water when it becomes stagnant, having first brought down the mud whence it first flowed. And such layers of soil are seen in the banks of rivers, where their constant flow has cut through them and divided one slope from the other to a great depth; where in gravelly strata the waters have run off, the materials have, in consequence, dried and been converted into hard stone, and this happened most in what was the finest mud; whence we conclude that every portion of the surface of the earth was once at the centre of the earth, and viceversa &c.

790.

The heaviest part of the foundations of buildings settles most, and leaves the lighter part above it separated from it.

And the soil which is most pressed, if it be porous yields most.

You should always make the foundations project equally beyond the weight of the walls and piers, as shown at m a b. If you do as many do, that is to say if you make a foundation of equal width from the bottom up to the surface of the ground, and charge it above with unequal weights, as shown at b e and at e o, at the part of the foundation at b e, the pier of the angle will weigh most and thrust its foundation downwards, which the wall at e o will not do; since it does not cover the whole of its foundation, and therefore thrusts less heavily and settles less. Hence, the pier b e in settling cracks and parts from the wall e o. This may be seen in most buildings which are cracked round the piers.

791.

The window a is well placed under the window c, and the window b is badly placed under the pier d, because this latter is without support and foundation; mind therefore never to make a break under the piers between the windows.

792.

OF THE SUPPORTS.

A pillar of which the thickness is increased will gain more than its due strength, in direct proportion to what its loses in relative height.

EXAMPLE.

If a pillar should be nine times as high as it is broad--that is to say, if it is one braccio thick, according to rule it should be nine braccia high--then, if you place 100 such pillars together in a mass this will be ten braccia broad and 9 high; and if the first pillar could carry 10000 pounds the second being only about as high as it is wide, and thus lacking 8 parts of its proper length, it, that is to say, each pillar thus united, will bear eight times more than when disconnected; that is to say, that if at first it would carry ten thousand pounds, it would now carry 90 thousand.

V.

ON THE RESISTANCE OF BEAMS.

793.

That angle will offer the greatest resistance which is most acute, and the most obtuse will be the weakest.

[Footnote: The three smaller sketches accompany the text in the original, but the larger one is not directly connected with it. It is to be found on fol. 89a of the same Manuscript and there we read in a note, written underneath, coverchio della perdicha del castello (roof of the flagstaff of the castle),--Compare also Pl. XCIII, No. 1.]

794.

If the beams and the weight o are 100 pounds, how much weight will be wanted at ae to resist such a weight, that it may not fall down?

795.

ON THE LENGTH OF BEAMS.

That beam which is more than 20 times as long as its greatest thickness will be of brief duration and will break in half; and remember, that the part built into the wall should be steeped in hot pitch and filleted with oak boards likewise so steeped. Each beam must pass through its walls and be secured beyond the walls with sufficient chaining, because in consequence of earthquakes the beams are often seen to come out of the walls and bring down the walls and floors; whilst if they are chained they will hold the walls strongly together and the walls will hold the floors. Again I remind you never to put plaster over timber. Since by expansion and shrinking of the timber produced by damp and dryness such floors often crack, and once cracked their divisions gradually produce dust and an ugly effect. Again remember not to lay a floor on beams supported on arches; for, in time the floor which is made on beams settles somewhat in the middle while that part of the floor which rests on the arches remains in its place; hence, floors laid over two kinds of supports look, in time, as if they were made in hills [Footnote: 19 M. RAVAISSON, in his edition of MS. A gives a very different rendering of this passage translating it thus: Les planchers qui sont soutenus par deux differentes natures de supports paraissent avec le temps faits en voute a cholli.]

Remarks on the style of Leonardo's architecture.

A few remarks may here be added on the style of Leonardo's architectural studies. However incomplete, however small in scale, they allow us to establish a certain number of facts and probabilities, well worthy of consideration.

When Leonardo began his studies the great name of Brunellesco was still the inspiration of all Florence, and we cannot doubt that Leonardo was open to it, since we find among his sketches the plan of the church of Santo Spirito[Footnote 1: See Pl. XCIV, No. 2. Then only in course of erection after the designs of Brunellesco, though he was already dead; finished in 1481.] and a lateral view of San Lorenzo (Pl. XCIV No. 1), a plan almost identical with the chapel Degli Angeli, only begun by him (Pl. XCIV, No. 3) while among Leonardo's designs for domes several clearly betray the influence of Brunellesco's Cupola and the lantern of Santa Maria del Fiore[Footnote 2: A small sketch of the tower of the Palazzo della Signoria (MS. C.A. 309) proves that he also studied mediaeval monuments.]

The beginning of the second period of modern Italian architecture falls during the first twenty years of Leonardo's life. However the new impetus given by Leon Battista Alberti either was not generally understood by his contemporaries, or those who appreciated it, had no opportunity of showing that they did so. It was only when taken up by Bramante and developed by him to the highest rank of modern architecture that this new influence was generally felt. Now the peculiar feature of Leonardo's sketches is that, like the works of Bramante, they appear to be the development and continuation of Alberti's.

But a question here occurs which is difficult to answer. Did Leonardo, till he quitted Florence, follow the direction given by the dominant school of Brunellesco, which would then have given rise to his "First manner", or had he, even before he left Florence, felt Alberti's influence--either through his works (Palazzo Ruccellai, and the front of Santa Maria Novella) or through personal intercourse? Or was it not till he went to Milan that Alberti's work began to impress him through Bramante, who probably had known Alberti at Mantua about 1470 and who not only carried out Alberti's views and ideas, but, by his designs for St. Peter's at Rome, proved himself the greatest of modern architects. When Leonardo went to Milan Bramante had already been living there for many years. One of his earliest works in Milan was the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Via del Falcone[Footnote 1: Evidence of this I intend to give later on in a Life of Bramante, which I have in preparation.].

Now we find among Leonardos studies of Cupolas on Plates LXXXIV and LXXXV and in Pl. LXXX several sketches which seem to me to have been suggested by Bramante's dome of this church.

The MSS. B and Ash. II contain the plans of S. Sepolcro, the pavilion in the garden of the duke of Milan, and two churches, evidently inspired by the church of San Lorenzo at Milan.

MS. B. contains besides two notes relating to Pavia, one of them a design for the sacristy of the Cathedral at Pavia, which cannot be supposed to be dated later than 1492, and it has probably some relation to Leonardo's call to Pavia June 21, 1490[Footnote 2: The sketch of the plan of Brunellesco's church of Santo Spirito at Florence, which occurs in the same Manuscript, may have been done from memory.]. These and other considerations justify us in concluding, that Leonardo made his studies of cupolas at Milan, probably between the years 1487 and 1492 in anticipation of the erection of one of the grandest churches of Italy, the Cathedral of Pavia. This may explain the decidedly Lombardo-Bramantesque tendency in the style of these studies, among which only a few remind us of the forms of the cupolas of S. Maria del Fiore and of the Baptistery of Florence. Thus, although when compared with Bramante's work, several of these sketches plainly reveal that master's influence, we find, among the sketches of domes, some, which show already Bramante's classic style, of which the Tempietto of San Pietro in Montorio, his first building executed at Rome, is the foremost example[Footnote 3: It may be mentioned here, that in 1494 Bramante made a similar design for the lantern of the Cupola of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.].

On Plate LXXXIV is a sketch of the plan of a similar circular building; and the Mausoleum on Pl. XCVIII, no less than one of the pedestals for the statue of Francesco Sforza (Pl. LXV), is of the same type.

The drawings Pl. LXXXIV No. 2, Pl. LXXXVI No. 1 and 2 and the ground flour ("flour" sic but should be "floor" ?) of the building in the drawing Pl. XCI No. 2, with the interesting decoration by gigantic statues in large niches, are also, I believe, more in the style Bramante adopted at Rome, than in the Lombard style. Are we to conclude from this that Leonardo on his part influenced Bramante in the sense of simplifying his style and rendering it more congenial to antique art? The answer to this important question seems at first difficult to give, for we are here in presence of Bramante, the greatest of modern architects, and with Leonardo, the man comparable with no other. We have no knowledge of any buildings erected by Leonardo, and unless we admit personal intercourse--which seems probable, but of which there is no proof--, it would be difficult to understand how Leonardo could have affected Bramante's style. The converse is more easily to be admitted, since Bramante, as we have proved elsewhere, drew and built simultaneously in different manners, and though in Lombardy there is no building by him in his classic style, the use of brick for building, in that part of Italy, may easily account for it.

Bramante's name is incidentally mentioned in Leonardo's manuscripts in two passages (Nos. 1414 and 1448). On each occasion it is only a slight passing allusion, and the nature of the context gives us no due information as to any close connection between the two artists.

It might be supposed, on the ground of Leonardo's relations with the East given in sections XVII and XXI of this volume, that some evidence of oriental influence might be detected in his architectural drawings. I do not however think that any such traces can be pointed out with certainty unless perhaps the drawing for a Mausoleum, Pl. XC VIII.

Among several studies for the construction of cupolas above a Greek cross there are some in which the forms are decidedly monotonous. These, it is clear, were not designed as models of taste; they must be regarded as the results of certain investigations into the laws of proportion, harmony and contrast.

The designs for churches, on the plan of a Latin cross are evidently intended to depart as little as possible from the form of a Greek cross; and they also show a preference for a nave surrounded with outer porticos.

The architectural forms preferred by Leonardo are pilasters coupled (Pl. LXXXII No. 1; or grouped (Pl. LXXX No. 5 and XCIV No. 4), often combined with niches. We often meet with orders superposed, one in each story, or two small orders on one story, in combination with one great order (Pl. XCVI No. 2).

The drum (tamburo) of these cupolas is generally octagonal, as in the cathedral of Florence, and with similar round windows in its sides. In Pl. LXXXVII No. 2 it is circular like the model actually carried out by Michael Angelo at St. Peter's.

The cupola itself is either hidden under a pyramidal roof, as in the Baptistery of Florence, San Lorenzo of Milan and most of the Lombard churches (Pl. XCI No. 1 and Pl. XCII No. 1); but it more generally suggests the curve of Sta Maria del Fiore (Pl. LXXXVIII No. 5; Pl. XC No. 2; Pl. LXXXIX, M; Pl XC No. 4, Pl. XCVI No. 2). In other cases (Pl. LXXX No. 4; Pl. LXXXIX; Pl. XC No. 2) it shows the sides of the octagon crowned by semicircular pediments, as in Brunellesco's lantern of the Cathedral and in the model for the Cathedral of Pavia.

Finally, in some sketches the cupola is either semicircular, or as in Pl. LXXXVII No. 2, shows the beautiful line, adopted sixty years later by Michael Angelo for the existing dome of St. Peter's.

It is worth noticing that for all these domes Leonardo is not satisfied to decorate the exterior merely with ascending ribs or mouldings, but employs also a system of horizontal parallels to complete the architectural system. Not the least interesting are the designs for the tiburio (cupola) of the Milan Cathedral. They show some of the forms, just mentioned, adapted to the peculiar gothic style of that monument.

The few examples of interiors of churches recall the style employed in Lombardy by Bramante, for instance in S. Maria di Canepanuova at Pavia, or by Dolcebuono in the Monastero Maggiore at Milan (see Pl. CI No. 1 [C. A. 181b; 546b]; Pl. LXXXIV No. 10).

The few indications concerning palaces seem to prove that Leonardo followed Alberti's example of decorating the walls with pilasters and a flat rustica, either in stone or by graffitti (Pl. CII No. 1 and Pl. LXXXV No. 14).

By pointing out the analogies between Leonardo's architecture and that of other masters we in no way pretend to depreciate his individual and original inventive power. These are at all events beyond dispute. The project for the Mausoleum (Pl. XCVIII) would alone suffice to rank him among the greatest architects who ever lived. The peculiar shape of the tower (Pl. LXXX), of the churches for preaching (Pl. XCVII No. 1 and pages 56 and 57, Fig. 1-4), his curious plan for a city with high and low level streets (Pl. LXXVII and LXXVIII No. 2 and No. 3), his Loggia with fountains (Pl. LXXXII No. 4) reveal an originality, a power and facility of invention for almost any given problem, which are quite wonderful.

In addition to all these qualities he propably stood alone in his day in one department of architectural study,--his investigations, namely, as to the resistance of vaults, foundations, walls and arches.

As an application of these studies the plan of a semicircular vault (Pl. CIII No. 2) may be mentioned here, disposed so as to produce no thrust on the columns on which it rests: volta i botte e non ispignie ifori le colone. Above the geometrical patterns on the same sheet, close to a circle inscribed in a square is the note: la ragio d'una volta cioe il terzo del diamitro della sua ... del tedesco in domo.

There are few data by which to judge of Leonardo's style in the treatment of detail. On Pl. LXXXV No. 10 and Pl. CIII No. 3, we find some details of pillars; on Pl. CI No. 3 slender pillars designed for a fountain and on Pl. CIII No. 1 MS. B, is a pen and ink drawing of a vase which also seems intended for a fountain. Three handles seem to have been intended to connect the upper parts with the base. There can be no doubt that Leonardo, like Bramante, but unlike Michael Angelo, brought infinite delicacy of motive and execution to bear on the details of his work.

XIV.

Anatomy, Zoology and Physiology.

Leonardo's eminent place in the history of medicine, as a pioneer in the sciences of Anatomy and Physiology, will never be appreciated till it is possible to publish the mass of manuscripts in which he largely treated of these two branches of learning. In the present work I must necessarily limit myself to giving the reader a general view of these labours, by publishing his introductory notes to the various books on anatomical subjects. I have added some extracts, and such observations as are scattered incidentally through these treatises, as serving to throw a light on Leonardo's scientific attitude, besides having an interest for a wider circle than that of specialists only.

VASARI expressly mentions Leonardo's anatomical studies, having had occasion to examine the manuscript books which refer to them. According to him Leonardo studied Anatomy in the companionship of Marc Antonio della Torre "aiutato e scambievolmente aiutando."--This learned Anatomist taught the science in the universities first of Padua and then of Pavia, and at Pavia he and Leonardo may have worked and studied together. We have no clue to any exact dates, but in the year 1506 Marc Antonio della Torre seems to have not yet left Padua. He was scarcely thirty years old when he died in 1512, and his writings on anatomy have not only never been published, but no manuscript copy of them is known to exist.

This is not the place to enlarge on the connection between Leonardo and Marc Antonio della Torre. I may however observe that I have not been able to discover in Leonardo's manuscripts on anatomy any mention of his younger contemporary. The few quotations which occur from writers on medicine--either of antiquity or of the middle ages are printed in Section XXII. Here and there in the manuscripts mention is made of an anonymous "adversary" (avversario) whose views are opposed and refuted by Leonardo, but there is no ground for supposing that Marc Antonio della Torre should have been this "adversary".

Only a very small selection from the mass of anatomical drawings left by Leonardo have been published here in facsimile, but to form any adequate idea of their scientific merit they should be compared with the coarse and inadequate figures given in the published books of the early part of the XVI. century.

William Hunter, the great surgeon--a competent judge--who had an opportunity in the time of George III. of seeing the originals in the King's Library, has thus recorded his opinion: "I expected to see little more than such designs in Anatomy as might be useful to a painter in his own profession. But I saw, and indeed with astonishment, that Leonardo had been a general and deep student. When I consider what pains he has taken upon every part of the body, the superiority of his universal genius, his particular excellence in mechanics and hydraulics, and the attention with which such a man would examine and see objects which he has to draw, I am fully persuaded that Leonardo was the best Anatomist, at that time, in the world ... Leonardo was certainly the first man, we know of, who introduced the practice of making anatomical drawings" (Two introductory letters. London 1784, pages 37 and 39).

The illustrious German Naturalist Johan Friedrich Blumenback esteemed them no less highly; he was one of the privileged few who, after Hunter, had the chance of seeing these Manuscripts. He writes: Der Scharfblick dieses grossen Forschers und Darstellers der Natur hat schon auf Dinge geachtet, die noch Jahrhunderte nachher unbemerkt geblieben sind" (see Blumenbach's medicinische Bibliothek, Vol. 3, St. 4, 1795. page 728).

These opinions were founded on the drawings alone. Up to the present day hardly anything has been made known of the text, and, for the reasons I have given, it is my intention to reproduce here no more than a selection of extracts which I have made from the originals at Windsor Castle and elsewhere. In the Bibliography of the Manuscripts, at the end of this volume a short review is given of the valuable contents of these Anatomical note books which are at present almost all in the possession of her Majesty the Queen of England. It is, I believe, possible to assign the date with approximate accuracy to almost all the fragments, and I am thus led to conclude that the greater part of Leonardo's anatomical investigations were carried out after the death of della Torre.

Merely in reading the introductory notes to his various books on Anatomy which are here printed it is impossible to resist the impression that the Master's anatomical studies bear to a very great extent the stamp of originality and independent thought.

I.

ANATOMY.

796.

A general introduction

I wish to work miracles;--it may be that I shall possess less than other men of more peaceful lives, or than those who want to grow rich in a day. I may live for a long time in great poverty, as always happens, and to all eternity will happen, to alchemists, the would-be creators of gold and silver, and to engineers who would have dead water stir itself into life and perpetual motion, and to those supreme fools, the necromancer and the enchanter.

[Footnote 23: The following seems to be directed against students of painting and young artists rather than against medical men and anatomists.]

And you, who say that it would be better to watch an anatomist at work than to see these drawings, you would be right, if it were possible to observe all the things which are demonstrated in such drawings in a single figure, in which you, with all your cleverness, will not see nor obtain knowledge of more than some few veins, to obtain a true and perfect knowledge of which I have dissected more than ten human bodies, destroying all the other members, and removing the very minutest particles of the flesh by which these veins are surrounded, without causing them to bleed, excepting the insensible bleeding of the capillary veins; and as one single body would not last so long, since it was necessary to proceed with several bodies by degrees, until I came to an end and had a complete knowledge; this I repeated twice, to learn the differences [59].

[Footnote: Lines 1-59 and 60-89 are written in two parallel columns. When we here find Leonardo putting himself in the same category as the Alchemists and Necromancers, whom he elsewhere mocks at so bitterly, it is evidently meant ironically. In the same way Leonardo, in the introduction to the Books on Perspective sets himself with transparent satire on a level with other writers on the subject.]

And if you should have a love for such things you might be prevented by loathing, and if that did not prevent you, you might be deterred by the fear of living in the night hours in the company of those corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to see. And if this did not prevent you, perhaps you might not be able to draw so well as is necessary for such a demonstration; or, if you had the skill in drawing, it might not be combined with knowledge of perspective; and if it were so, you might not understand the methods of geometrical demonstration and the method of the calculation of forces and of the strength of the muscles; patience also may be wanting, so that you lack perseverance. As to whether all these things were found in me or not [Footnote 84: Leonardo frequently, and perhaps habitually, wrote in note books of a very small size and only moderately thick; in most of those which have been preserved undivided, each contains less than fifty leaves. Thus a considerable number of such volumes must have gone to make up a volume of the bulk of the 'Codex Atlanticus' which now contains nearly 1200 detached leaves. In the passage under consideration, which was evidently written at a late period of his life, Leonardo speaks of his Manuscript note-books as numbering 12O; but we should hardly be justified in concluding from this passage that the greater part of his Manuscripts were now missing (see Prolegomena, Vol. I, pp. 5-7).], the hundred and twenty books composed by me will give verdict Yes or No. In these I have been hindered neither by avarice nor negligence, but simply by want of time. Farewell [89].

Plans and suggestions for the arrangement of materials (797-802).

797.

OF THE ORDER OF THE BOOK.

This work must begin with the conception of man, and describe the nature of the womb and how the foetus lives in it, up to what stage it resides there, and in what way it quickens into life and feeds. Also its growth and what interval there is between one stage of growth and another.

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