The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 26

What it is that forces it out from the body of the mother, and for what reasons it sometimes comes out of the mother's womb before the due time.

Then I will describe which are the members, which, after the boy is born, grow more than the others, and determine the proportions of a boy of one year.

Then describe the fully grown man and woman, with their proportions, and the nature of their complexions, colour, and physiognomy.

Then how they are composed of veins, tendons, muscles and bones. This I shall do at the end of the book. Then, in four drawings, represent four universal conditions of men. That is, Mirth, with various acts of laughter, and describe the cause of laughter. Weeping in various aspects with its causes. Contention, with various acts of killing; flight, fear, ferocity, boldness, murder and every thing pertaining to such cases. Then represent Labour, with pulling, thrusting, carrying, stopping, supporting and such like things.

Further I would describe attitudes and movements. Then perspective, concerning the functions and effects of the eye; and of hearing--here I will speak of music--, and treat of the other senses.

And then describe the nature of the senses.

This mechanism of man we will demonstrate in ... figures; of which the three first will show the ramification of the bones; that is: first one to show their height and position and shape: the second will be seen in profile and will show the depth of the whole and of the parts, and their position. The third figure will be a demonstration of the bones of the backparts. Then I will make three other figures from the same point of view, with the bones sawn across, in which will be shown their thickness and hollowness. Three other figures of the bones complete, and of the nerves which rise from the nape of the neck, and in what limbs they ramify. And three others of the bones and veins, and where they ramify. Then three figures with the muscles and three with the skin, and their proper proportions; and three of woman, to illustrate the womb and the menstrual veins which go to the breasts.

[Footnote: The meaning of the word nervo varies in different passages, being sometimes used for muscolo (muscle).]



This depicting of mine of the human body will be as clear to you as if you had the natural man before you; and the reason is that if you wish thoroughly to know the parts of man, anatomically, you--or your eye--require to see it from different aspects, considering it from below and from above and from its sides, turning it about and seeking the origin of each member; and in this way the natural anatomy is sufficient for your comprehension. But you must understand that this amount of knowledge will not continue to satisfy you; seeing the very great confusion that must result from the combination of tissues, with veins, arteries, nerves, sinews, muscles, bones, and blood which, of itself, tinges every part the same colour. And the veins, which discharge this blood, are not discerned by reason of their smallness. Moreover integrity of the tissues, in the process of the investigating the parts within them, is inevitably destroyed, and their transparent substance being tinged with blood does not allow you to recognise the parts covered by them, from the similarity of their blood-stained hue; and you cannot know everything of the one without confusing and destroying the other. Hence, some further anatomy drawings become necessary. Of which you want three to give full knowledge of the veins and arteries, everything else being destroyed with the greatest care. And three others to display the tissues; and three for the sinews and muscles and ligaments; and three for the bones and cartilages; and three for the anatomy of the bones, which have to be sawn to show which are hollow and which are not, which have marrow and which are spongy, and which are thick from the outside inwards, and which are thin. And some are extremely thin in some parts and thick in others, and in some parts hollow or filled up with bone, or full of marrow, or spongy. And all these conditions are sometimes found in one and the same bone, and in some bones none of them. And three you must have for the woman, in which there is much that is mysterious by reason of the womb and the foetus. Therefore by my drawings every part will be known to you, and all by means of demonstrations from three different points of view of each part; for when you have seen a limb from the front, with any muscles, sinews, or veins which take their rise from the opposite side, the same limb will be shown to you in a side view or from behind, exactly as if you had that same limb in your hand and were turning it from side to side until you had acquired a full comprehension of all you wished to know. In the same way there will be put before you three or four demonstrations of each limb, from various points of view, so that you will be left with a true and complete knowledge of all you wish to learn of the human figure[Footnote 35: Compare Pl. CVII. The original drawing at Windsor is 28 1/2 X 19 1/2 centimetres. The upper figures are slightly washed with Indian ink. On the back of this drawing is the text No. 1140.].

Thus, in twelve entire figures, you will have set before you the cosmography of this lesser world on the same plan as, before me, was adopted by Ptolemy in his cosmography; and so I will afterwards divide them into limbs as he divided the whole world into provinces; then I will speak of the function of each part in every direction, putting before your eyes a description of the whole form and substance of man, as regards his movements from place to place, by means of his different parts. And thus, if it please our great Author, I may demonstrate the nature of men, and their customs in the way I describe his figure.

And remember that the anatomy of the nerves will not give the position of their ramifications, nor show you which muscles they branch into, by means of bodies dissected in running water or in lime water; though indeed their origin and starting point may be seen without such water as well as with it. But their ramifications, when under running water, cling and unite--just like flat or hemp carded for spinning--all into a skein, in a way which makes it impossible to trace in which muscles or by what ramification the nerves are distributed among those muscles.



First draw the bones, let us say, of the arm, and put in the motor muscle from the shoulder to the elbow with all its lines. Then proceed in the same way from the elbow to the wrist. Then from the wrist to the hand and from the hand to the fingers.

And in the arm you will put the motors of the fingers which open, and these you will show separately in their demonstration. In the second demonstration you will clothe these muscles with the secondary motors of the fingers and so proceed by degrees to avoid confusion. But first lay on the bones those muscles which lie close to the said bones, without confusion of other muscles; and with these you may put the nerves and veins which supply their nourishment, after having first drawn the tree of veins and nerves over the simple bones.


Begin the anatomy at the head and finish at the sole of the foot.


3 men complete, 3 with bones and nerves, 3 with the bones only. Here we have 12 demonstrations of entire figures.


When you have finished building up the man, you will make the statue with all its superficial measurements.

[Footnote: Cresciere l'omo. The meaning of this expression appears to be different here and in the passage C.A. 157a, 468a (see No. 526, Note 1. 2). Here it can hardly mean anything else than modelling, since the sculptor forms the figure by degrees, by adding wet clay and the figure consequently increases or grows. Tu farai la statua would then mean, you must work out the figure in marble. If this interpretation is the correct one, this passage would have no right to find a place in the series on anatomical studies. I may say that it was originally inserted in this connection under the impression that di cresciere should be read descrivere.]

Plans for the representation of muscles by drawings (803-809).


You must show all the motions of the bones with their joints to follow the demonstration of the first three figures of the bones, and this should be done in the first book.


Remember that to be certain of the point of origin of any muscle, you must pull the sinew from which the muscle springs in such a way as to see that muscle move, and where it is attached to the ligaments of the bones.


You will never get any thing but confusion in demonstrating the muscles and their positions, origin, and termination, unless you first make a demonstration of thin muscles after the manner of linen threads; and thus you can represent them, one over another as nature has placed them; and thus, too, you can name them according to the limb they serve; for instance the motor of the point of the great toe, of its middle bone, of its first bone, &c. And when you have the knowledge you will draw, by the side of this, the true form and size and position of each muscle. But remember to give the threads which explain the situation of the muscles in the position which corresponds to the central line of each muscle; and so these threads will demonstrate the form of the leg and their distance in a plain and clear manner.

I have removed the skin from a man who was so shrunk by illness that the muscles were worn down and remained in a state like thin membrane, in such a way that the sinews instead of merging in muscles ended in wide membrane; and where the bones were covered by the skin they had very little over their natural size.

[Footnote: The photograph No. 41 of Grosvenor Gallery Publications: a drawing of the muscles of the foot, includes a complete facsimile of the text of this passage.]


Which nerve causes the motion of the eye so that the motion of one eye moves the other?

Of frowning the brows, of raising the brows, of lowering the brows,--of closing the eyes, of opening the eyes,--of raising the nostrils, of opening the lips, with the teeth shut, of pouting with the lips, of smiling, of astonishment.--

Describe the beginning of man when it is caused in the womb and why an eight months child does not live. What sneezing is. What yawning is. Falling sickness, spasms, paralysis, shivering with cold, sweating, fatigue, hunger, sleepiness, thirst, lust.

Of the nerve which is the cause of movement from the shoulder to the elbow, of the movement from the elbow to the hand, from the joint of the hand to the springing of the fingers. From the springing of the fingers to the middle joints, and from the middle joints to the last.

Of the nerve which causes the movement of the thigh, and from the knee to the foot, and from the joint of the foot to the toes, and then to the middle of the toes and of the rotary motion of the leg.



Which nerves or sinews of the hand are those which close and part the fingers and toes latteraly?


Remove by degrees all the parts of the front of a man in making your dissection, till you come to the bones. Description of the parts of the bust and of their motions.


Give the anatomy of the leg up to the hip, in all views and in every action and in every state; veins, arteries, nerves, sinews and muscles, skin and bones; then the bones in sections to show the thickness of the bones.

[Footnote: A straightened leg in profile is sketched by the side of this text.]

On corpulency and leanness (809-811).


Make the rule and give the measurement of each muscle, and give the reasons of all their functions, and in which way they work and what makes them work &c.

[4] First draw the spine of the back; then clothe it by degrees, one after the other, with each of its muscles and put in the nerves and arteries and veins to each muscle by itself; and besides these note the vertebrae to which they are attached; which of the intestines come in contact with them; and which bones and other organs &c.

The most prominent parts of lean people are most prominent in the muscular, and equally so in fat persons. But concerning the difference in the forms of the muscles in fat persons as compared with muscular persons, it shall be described below.

[Footnote: The two drawings given on Pl. CVIII no. 1 come between lines 3 and 4. A good and very early copy of this drawing without the written text exists in the collection of drawings belonging to Christ's College Oxford, where it is attributed to Leonardo.]


Describe which muscles disappear in growing fat, and which become visible in growing lean.

And observe that that part which on the surface of a fat person is most concave, when he grows lean becomes more prominent.

Where the muscles separate one from another you must give profiles and where they coalesce ...



Which is the part in man, which, as he grows fatter, never gains flesh?

Or what part which as a man grows lean never falls away with a too perceptible diminution? And among the parts which grow fat which is that which grows fattest?

Among those which grow lean which is that which grows leanest?

In very strong men which are the muscles which are thickest and most prominent?

In your anatomy you must represent all the stages of the limbs from man's creation to his death, and then till the death of the bone; and which part of him is first decayed and which is preserved the longest.

And in the same way of extreme leanness and extreme fatness.

The divisions of the head (812. 813).



There are eleven elementary tissues:-- Cartilage, bones, nerves, veins, arteries, fascia, ligament and sinews, skin, muscle and fat.


The divisions of the head are 10, viz. 5 external and 5 internal, the external are the hair, skin, muscle, fascia and the skull; the internal are the dura mater, the pia mater, [which enclose] the brain. The pia mater and the dura mater come again underneath and enclose the brain; then the rete mirabile, and the occipital bone, which supports the brain from which the nerves spring.


a. hair

n. skin

c. muscle

m. fascia

o. skull i.e. bone

b. dura mater

d. pia mater

f. brain

r. pia mater, below

t. dura mater

l. rete mirablile

s. the occipitul bone.

[Footnote: See Pl. CVIII, No. 3.]

Physiological problems (814. 815).


Of the cause of breathing, of the cause of the motion of the heart, of the cause of vomiting, of the cause of the descent of food from the stomach, of the cause of emptying the intestines.

Of the cause of the movement of the superfluous matter through the intestines.

Of the cause of swallowing, of the cause of coughing, of the cause of yawning, of the cause of sneezing, of the cause of limbs getting asleep.

Of the cause of losing sensibility in any limb.

Of the cause of tickling.

Of the cause of lust and other appetites of the body, of the cause of urine and also of all the natural excretions of the body.

[Footnote: By the side of this text stands the pen and ink drawing reproduced on Pl. CVIII, No. 4; a skull with indications of the veins in the fleshy covering.]


The tears come from the heart and not from the brain.

Define all the parts, of which the body is composed, beginning with the skin with its outer cuticle which is often chapped by the influence of the sun.



The divisions of the animal kingdom (816. 817).


Man. The description of man, which includes that of such creatures as are of almost the same species, as Apes, Monkeys and the like, which are many,

The Lion and its kindred, as Panthers. [Footnote 3: Leonza--wild cat? "Secondo alcuni, lo stesso che Leonessa; e secondo altri con piu certezza, lo stesso che Pantera" FANFANI, Vocabolario page 858.] Wildcats (?) Tigers, Leopards, Wolfs, Lynxes, Spanish cats, common cats and the like.

The Horse and its kindred, as Mule, Ass and the like, with incisor teeth above and below.

The Bull and its allies with horns and without upper incisors as the Buffalo, Stag Fallow Deer, Wild Goat, Swine, Goat, wild Goats Muskdeers, Chamois, Giraffe.


Describe the various forms of the intestines of the human species, of apes and such like. Then, in what way the leonine species differ, and then the bovine, and finally birds; and arrange this description after the manner of a disquisition.

Miscellaneous notes on the study of Zoology (818-821).


Procure the placenta of a calf when it is born and observe the form of the cotyledons, if their cotyledons are male or female.


Describe the tongue of the woodpecker and the jaw of the crocodile.


Of the flight of the 4th kind of butterflies that consume winged ants. Of the three principal positions of the wings of birds in downward flight.

[Footnote: A passing allusion is all I can here permit myself to Leonardo's elaborate researches into the flight of birds. Compare the observations on this subject in the Introduction to section XVIII and in the Bibliography of Manuscripts at the end of the work.]


Of the way in which the tail of a fish acts in propelling the fish; as in the eel, snake and leech.

[Footnote: A sketch of a fish, swimming upwards is in the original, inserted above this text.--Compare No. 1114.]

Comparative study of the structure of bones and of the action of muscles (822-826).



Then I will discourse of the hands of each animal to show in what they vary; as in the bear, which has the ligatures of the sinews of the toes joined above the instep.


A second demonstration inserted between anatomy and [the treatise on] the living being.

You will represent here for a comparison, the legs of a frog, which have a great resemblance to the legs of man, both in the bones and in the muscles. Then, in continuation, the hind legs of the hare, which are very muscular, with strong active muscles, because they are not encumbered with fat.

[Footnote: This text is written by the side of a drawing in black chalk of a nude male figure, but there is no connection between the sketch and the text.]


Here I make a note to demonstrate the difference there is between man and the horse and in the same way with other animals. And first I will begin with the bones, and then will go on to all the muscles which spring from the bones without tendons and end in them in the same way, and then go on to those which start with a single tendon at one end.

[Footnote: See Pl. CVIII, No. 2.]


Note on the bendings of joints and in what way the flesh grows upon them in their flexions or extensions; and of this most important study write a separate treatise: in the description of the movements of animals with four feet; among which is man, who likewise in his infancy crawls on all fours.



The walking of man is always after the universal manner of walking in animals with 4 legs, inasmuch as just as they move their feet crosswise after the manner of a horse in trotting, so man moves his 4 limbs crosswise; that is, if he puts forward his right foot in walking he puts forward, with it, his left arm and vice versa, invariably.



Comparative study of the organs of sense in men and animals.


I have found that in the composition of the human body as compared with the bodies of animals the organs of sense are duller and coarser. Thus it is composed of less ingenious instruments, and of spaces less capacious for receiving the faculties of sense. I have seen in the Lion tribe that the sense of smell is connected with part of the substance of the brain which comes down the nostrils, which form a spacious receptacle for the sense of smell, which enters by a great number of cartilaginous vesicles with several passages leading up to where the brain, as before said, comes down.

The eyes in the Lion tribe have a large part of the head for their sockets and the optic nerves communicate at once with the brain; but the contrary is to be seen in man, for the sockets of the eyes are but a small part of the head, and the optic nerves are very fine and long and weak, and by the weakness of their action we see by day but badly at night, while these animals can see as well at night as by day. The proof that they can see is that they prowl for prey at night and sleep by day, as nocturnal birds do also.

Advantages in the structure of the eye in certain animals (828-831).


Every object we see will appear larger at midnight than at midday, and larger in the morning than at midday.

This happens because the pupil of the eye is much smaller at midday than at any other time.

In proportion as the eye or the pupil of the owl is larger in proportion to the animal than that of man, so much the more light can it see at night than man can; hence at midday it can see nothing if its pupil does not diminish; and, in the same way, at night things look larger to it than by day.



The eyes of all animals have their pupils adapted to dilate and diminish of their own accord in proportion to the greater or less light of the sun or other luminary. But in birds the variation is much greater; and particularly in nocturnal birds, such as horned owls, and in the eyes of one species of owl; in these the pupil dilates in such away as to occupy nearly the whole eye, or diminishes to the size of a grain of millet, and always preserves the circular form. But in the Lion tribe, as panthers, pards, ounces, tigers, lynxes, Spanish cats and other similar animals the pupil diminishes from the perfect circle to the figure of a pointed oval such as is shown in the margin. But man having a weaker sight than any other animal is less hurt by a very strong light and his pupil increases but little in dark places; but in the eyes of these nocturnal animals, the horned owl--a bird which is the largest of all nocturnal birds--the power of vision increases so much that in the faintest nocturnal light (which we call darkness) it sees with much more distinctness than we do in the splendour of noon day, at which time these birds remain hidden in dark holes; or if indeed they are compelled to come out into the open air lighted up by the sun, they contract their pupils so much that their power of sight diminishes together with the quantity of light admitted.

Study the anatomy of various eyes and see which are the muscles which open and close the said pupils of the eyes of animals.

[Footnote: Compare No. 24, lines 8 and fol.]


a b n is the membrane which closes the eye from below, upwards, with an opaque film, c n b encloses the eye in front and behind with a transparent membrane.

It closes from below, upwards, because it [the eye] comes downwards.

When the eye of a bird closes with its two lids, the first to close is the nictitating membrane which closes from the lacrymal duct over to the outer corner of the eye; and the outer lid closes from below upwards, and these two intersecting motions begin first from the lacrymatory duct, because we have already seen that in front and below birds are protected and use only the upper portion of the eye from fear of birds of prey which come down from above and behind; and they uncover first the membrane from the outer corner, because if the enemy comes from behind, they have the power of escaping to the front; and again the muscle called the nictitating membrane is transparent, because, if the eye had not such a screen, they could not keep it open against the wind which strikes against the eye in the rush of their rapid flight. And the pupil of the eye dilates and contracts as it sees a less or greater light, that is to say intense brilliancy.


If at night your eye is placed between the light and the eye of a cat, it will see the eye look like fire.

Remarks on the organs of speech

(832. 833).


a e i o u ba be bi bo bu ca ce ci co cu da de di do du fa fe fi fo fu ga ge gi go gu la le li lo lu ma me mi mo mu na ne ni no nu pa pe pi po pu qa qe qi qo qu ra re ri ro ru sa se si so su ta te ti to tu

The tongue is found to have 24 muscles which correspond to the six muscles which compose the portion of the tongue which moves in the mouth.

And when a o u are spoken with a clear and rapid pronunciation, it is necessary, in order to pronounce continuously, without any pause between, that the opening of the lips should close by degrees; that is, they are wide apart in saying a, closer in saying o, and much closer still to pronounce u.

It may be shown how all the vowels are pronounced with the farthest portion of the false palate which is above the epiglottis.


If you draw in breath by the nose and send it out by the mouth you will hear the sound made by the division that is the membrane in [Footnote 5: The text here breaks off.]...

On the conditions of sight (834. 835).



I say that sight is exercised by all animals, by the medium of light; and if any one adduces, as against this, the sight of nocturnal animals, I must say that this in the same way is subject to the very same natural laws. For it will easily be understood that the senses which receive the images of things do not project from themselves any visual virtue [Footnote 4: Compare No. 68.]. On the contrary the atmospheric medium which exists between the object and the sense incorporates in itself the figure of things, and by its contact with the sense transmits the object to it. If the object--whether by sound or by odour--presents its spiritual force to the ear or the nose, then light is not required and does not act. The forms of objects do not send their images into the air if they are not illuminated [8]; and the eye being thus constituted cannot receive that from the air, which the air does not possess, although it touches its surface. If you choose to say that there are many animals that prey at night, I answer that when the little light which suffices the nature of their eyes is wanting, they direct themselves by their strong sense of hearing and of smell, which are not impeded by the darkness, and in which they are very far superior to man. If you make a cat leap, by daylight, among a quantity of jars and crocks you will see them remain unbroken, but if you do the same at night, many will be broken. Night birds do not fly about unless the moon shines full or in part; rather do they feed between sun-down and the total darkness of the night.

[Footnote 8: See No. 58-67.]

No body can be apprehended without light and shade, and light and shade are caused by light.



Sight is better from a distance than near in those men who are advancing in age, because the same object transmits a smaller impression of itself to the eye when it is distant than when it is near.

The seat of the common sense.


The Common Sense, is that which judges of things offered to it by the other senses. The ancient speculators have concluded that that part of man which constitutes his judgment is caused by a central organ to which the other five senses refer everything by means of impressibility; and to this centre they have given the name Common Sense. And they say that this Sense is situated in the centre of the head between Sensation and Memory. And this name of Common Sense is given to it solely because it is the common judge of all the other five senses i.e. Seeing, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. This Common Sense is acted upon by means of Sensation which is placed as a medium between it and the senses. Sensation is acted upon by means of the images of things presented to it by the external instruments, that is to say the senses which are the medium between external things and Sensation. In the same way the senses are acted upon by objects. Surrounding things transmit their images to the senses and the senses transfer them to the Sensation. Sensation sends them to the Common Sense, and by it they are stamped upon the memory and are there more or less retained according to the importance or force of the impression. That sense is most rapid in its function which is nearest to the sensitive medium and the eye, being the highest is the chief of the others. Of this then only we will speak, and the others we will leave in order not to make our matter too long. Experience tells us that the eye apprehends ten different natures of things, that is: Light and Darkness, one being the cause of the perception of the nine others, and the other its absence:-- Colour and substance, form and place, distance and nearness, motion and stillness [Footnote 15: Compare No. 23.].

On the origin of the soul.


Though human ingenuity may make various inventions which, by the help of various machines answering the same end, it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous, and she needs no counterpoise when she makes limbs proper for motion in the bodies of animals. But she puts into them the soul of the body, which forms them that is the soul of the mother which first constructs in the womb the form of the man and in due time awakens the soul that is to inhabit it. And this at first lies dormant and under the tutelage of the soul of the mother, who nourishes and vivifies it by the umbilical vein, with all its spiritual parts, and this happens because this umbilicus is joined to the placenta and the cotyledons, by which the child is attached to the mother. And these are the reason why a wish, a strong craving or a fright or any other mental suffering in the mother, has more influence on the child than on the mother; for there are many cases when the child loses its life from them, &c.

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Leonardo da Vinci

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