The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 28

Let a be the sun, and n m the ruffled water, b the image of the sun when the water is smooth. Let f be the eye which sees the image in all the waves included within the base of the triangle c e f. Now the sun reflected in the unruffled surface occupied the space c d, while in the ruffled surface it covers all the watery space c e (as is proved in the 4th of my "Perspective") [Footnote 9: Nel quarto della mia prospettiva. If this reference is to the diagrams accompanying the text--as is usual with Leonardo--and not to some particular work, the largest of the diagrams here given must be meant. It is the lowest and actually the fifth, but he would have called it the fourth, for the text here given is preceded on the same page of the manuscript by a passage on whirlpools, with the diagram belonging to it also reproduced here. The words della mia prospettiva may therefore indicate that the diagram to the preceding chapter treating on a heterogeneal subject is to be excluded. It is a further difficulty that this diagram belongs properly to lines 9-10 and not to the preceding sentence. The reflection of the sun in water is also discussed in the Theoretical part of the Book on Painting; see Vol. I, No. 206, 207.] and it will cover more of the water in proportion as the reflected image is remote from the eye [10].

[Footnote: In the original sketch, inside the circle in the first diagram, is written Sole (sun), and to the right of it luna (moon). Thus either of these heavenly bodies may be supposed to fill that space. Within the lower circle is written simulacro (image). In the two next diagrams at the spot here marked L the word Luna is written, and in the last sole is written in the top circle at a.]

The image of the sun will be more brightly shown in small waves than in large ones--and this is because the reflections or images of the sun are more numerous in the small waves than in large ones, and the more numerous reflections of its radiance give a larger light than the fewer.

Waves which intersect like the scales of a fir cone reflect the image of the sun with the greatest splendour; and this is the case because the images are as many as the ridges of the waves on which the sun shines, and the shadows between these waves are small and not very dark; and the radiance of so many reflections together becomes united in the image which is transmitted to the eye, so that these shadows are imperceptible.

That reflection of the sun will cover most space on the surface of the water which is most remote from the eye which sees it.

Let a be the sun, p q the reflection of the sun; a b is the surface of the water, in which the sun is mirrored, and r the eye which sees this reflection on the surface of the water occupying the space o m. c is the eye at a greater distance from the surface of the water and also from the reflection; hence this reflection covers a larger space of water, by the distance between n and o.


It is impossible that the side of a spherical mirror, illuminated by the sun, should reflect its radiance unless this mirror were undulating or filled with bubbles.

You see here the sun which lights up the moon, a spherical mirror, and all of its surface, which faces the sun is rendered radiant.

Whence it may be concluded that what shines in the moon is water like that of our seas, and in waves as that is; and that portion which does not shine consists of islands and terra firma.

This diagram, of several spherical bodies interposed between the eye and the sun, is given to show that, just as the reflection of the sun is seen in each of these bodies, in the same way that image may be seen in each curve of the waves of the sea; and as in these many spheres many reflections of the sun are seen, so in many waves there are many images, each of which at a great distance is much magnified to the eye. And, as this happens with each wave, the spaces interposed between the waves are concealed; and, for this reason, it looks as though the many suns mirrored in the many waves were but one continuous sun; and the shadows,, mixed up with the luminous images, render this radiance less brilliant than that of the sun mirrored in these waves.

[Footnote: In the original, at letter A in the diagram "Sole" (the sun) is written, and at o "occhio" (the eye).]


This will have before it the treatise on light and shade.

The edges in the moon will be most strongly lighted and reflect most light, because, there, nothing will be visible but the tops of the waves of the water [Footnote 5: I have thought it unnecessary to reproduce the detailed explanation of the theory of reflection on waves contained in the passage which follows this.].


The sun will appear larger in moving water or on waves than in still water; an example is the light reflected on the strings of a monochord.



The question of the true and of the apparent size of the sun (879-884).



If you look at the stars, cutting off the rays (as may be done by looking through a very small hole made with the extreme point of a very fine needle, placed so as almost to touch the eye), you will see those stars so minute that it would seem as though nothing could be smaller; it is in fact their great distance which is the reason of their diminution, for many of them are very many times larger than the star which is the earth with water. Now reflect what this our star must look like at such a distance, and then consider how many stars might be added--both in longitude and latitude--between those stars which are scattered over the darkened sky. But I cannot forbear to condemn many of the ancients, who said that the sun was no larger than it appears; among these was Epicurus, and I believe that he founded his reason on the effects of a light placed in our atmosphere equidistant from the centre of the earth. Any one looking at it never sees it diminished in size at whatever distance; and the rea-

[Footnote 879-882: What Leonardo says of Epicurus-- who according to LEWIS, The Astronomy of the ancients, and MADLER, Geschichte der Himmelskunde, did not devote much attention to the study of celestial phenomena--, he probably derived from Book X of Diogenes Laertius, whose Vitae Philosophorum was not printed in Greek till 1533, but the Latin translation appeared in 1475.]


sons of its size and power I shall reserve for Book 4. But I wonder greatly that Socrates

[Footnote 2: Socrates; I have little light to throw on this reference. Plato's Socrates himself declares on more than one occasion that in his youth he had turned his mind to the study of celestial phenomena (METEWPA) but not in his later years (see G. C. LEWIS, The Astronomy of the ancients, page 109; MADLER, Geschichte der Himmelskunde, page 41). Here and there in Plato's writings we find incidental notes on the sun and other heavenly bodies. Leonardo may very well have known of these, since the Latin version by Ficinus was printed as early as 1491; indeed an undated edition exists which may very likely have appeared between 1480--90.

There is but one passage in Plato, Epinomis (p. 983) where he speaks of the physical properties of the sun and says that it is larger than the earth.

Aristotle who goes very fully into the subject says the same. A complete edition of Aristotele's works was first printed in Venice 1495-98, but a Latin version of the Books De Coelo et Mundo and De Physica had been printed in Venice as early as in 1483 (H. MULLER-STRUBING).]

should have depreciated that solar body, saying that it was of the nature of incandescent stone, and the one who opposed him as to that error was not far wrong. But I only wish I had words to serve me to blame those who are fain to extol the worship of men more than that of the sun; for in the whole universe there is nowhere to be seen a body of greater magnitude and power than the sun. Its light gives light to all the celestial bodies which are distributed throughout the universe; and from it descends all vital force, for the heat that is in living beings comes from the soul [vital spark]; and there is no other centre of heat and light in the universe as will be shown in Book 4; and certainly those who have chosen to worship men as gods--as Jove, Saturn, Mars and the like--have fallen into the gravest error, seeing that even if a man were as large as our earth, he would look no bigger than a little star which appears but as a speck in the universe; and seeing again that these men are mortal, and putrid and corrupt in their sepulchres.

Marcellus [Footnote 23: I have no means of identifying Marcello who is named in the margin. It may be Nonius Marcellus, an obscure Roman Grammarian of uncertain date (between the IInd and Vth centuries A. C.) the author of the treatise De compendiosa doctrina per litteras ad filium in which he treats de rebus omnibus et quibusdam aliis. This was much read in the middle ages. The editto princeps is dated 1470 (H. MULLER-STRUBING).] and many others praise the sun.


Epicurus perhaps saw the shadows cast by columns on the walls in front of them equal in diameter to the columns from which the shadows were cast; and the breadth of the shadows being parallel from beginning to end, he thought he might infer that the sun also was directly opposite to this parallel and that consequently its breadth was not greater than that of the column; not perceiving that the diminution in the shadow was insensibly slight by reason of the remoteness of the sun. If the sun were smaller than the earth, the stars on a great portion of our hemisphere would have no light, which is evidence against Epicurus who says the sun is only as large as it appears.

[Footnote: In the original the writing is across the diagram.]


Epicurus says the sun is the size it looks. Hence as it looks about a foot across we must consider that to be its size; it would follow that when the moon eclipses the sun, the sun ought not to appear the larger, as it does. Then, the moon being smaller than the sun, the moon must be less than a foot, and consequently when our world eclipses the moon, it must be less than a foot by a finger's breadth; inasmuch as if the sun is a foot across, and our earth casts a conical shadow on the moon, it is inevitable that the luminous cause of the cone of shadow must be larger than the opaque body which casts the cone of shadow.


To measure how many times the diameter of the sun will go into its course in 24 hours.

Make a circle and place it to face the south, after the manner of a sundial, and place a rod in the middle in such a way as that its length points to the centre of this circle, and mark the shadow cast in the sunshine by this rod on the circumference of the circle, and this shadow will be--let us say-- as broad as from a to n. Now measure how many times this shadow will go into this circumference of a circle, and that will give you the number of times that the solar body will go into its orbit in 24 hours. Thus you may see whether Epicurus was [right in] saying that the sun was only as large as it looked; for, as the apparent diameter of the sun is about a foot, and as that sun would go a thousand times into the length of its course in 24 hours, it would have gone a thousand feet, that is 300 braccia, which is the sixth of a mile. Whence it would follow that the course of the sun during the day would be the sixth part of a mile and that this venerable snail, the sun will have travelled 25 braccia an hour.


Posidonius composed books on the size of the sun. [Footnote: Poseidonius of Apamea, commonly called the Rhodian, because he taught in Rhodes, was a Stoic philosopher, a contemporary and friend of Cicero's, and the author of numerous works on natural science, among them.

Strabo quotes no doubt from one of his works, when he says that Poseidonius explained how it was that the sun looked larger when it was rising or setting than during the rest of its course (III, p. 135). Kleomedes, a later Greek Naturalist also mentions this observation of Poseidonius' without naming the title of his work; however, as Kleomedes' Cyclia Theorica was not printed till 1535, Leonardo must have derived his quotation from Strabo. He probably wrote this note in 1508, and as the original Greek was first printed in Venice in 1516, we must suppose him to quote here from the translation by Guarinus Veronensis, which was printed as early as 1471, also at Venice (H. MULLER-STRUBING).]

Of the nature of Sunlight.



Of the nature of Sunlight.

That the heat of the sun resides in its nature and not in its virtue [or mode of action] is abundantly proved by the radiance of the solar body on which the human eye cannot dwell and besides this no less manifestly by the rays reflected from a concave mirror, which--when they strike the eye with such splendour that the eye cannot bear them--have a brilliancy equal to the sun in its own place. And that this is true I prove by the fact that if the mirror has its concavity formed exactly as is requisite for the collecting and reflecting of these rays, no created being could endure the heat that strikes from the reflected rays of such a mirror. And if you argue that the mirror itself is cold and yet send forth hot rays, I should reply that those rays come really from the sun and that it is the ray of the concave mirror after having passed through the window.

Considerations as to the size of the sun (886-891).


The sun does not move. [Footnote: This sentence occurs incidentally among mathematical notes, and is written in unusually large letters.]



[Footnote: Lines 4 and fol. Compare Vol. I, Nos. 130, 131.] If it is from the centre that the sun employs its radiance to intensify the power of its whole mass, it is evident that the farther its rays extend, the more widely they will be divided; and this being so, you, whose eye is near the water that mirrors the sun, see but a small portion of the rays of the sun strike the surface of the water, and reflecting the form of the sun. But if you were near to the sun--as would be the case when the sun is on the meridian and the sea to the westward--you would see the sun, mirrored in the sea, of a very great size; because, as you are nearer to the sun, your eye taking in the rays nearer to the point of radiation takes more of them in, and a great splendour is the result. And in this way it can be proved that the moon must have seas which reflect the sun, and that the parts which do not shine are land.


Take the measure of the sun at the solstice in mid-June.



Every object seen through a curved medium seems to be of larger size than it is.

[Footnote: At A is written sole (the sun), at B terra (the earth).]


Because the eye is small it can only see the image of the sun as of a small size. If the eye were as large as the sun it would see the image of the sun in water of the same size as the real body of the sun, so long as the water is smooth.



Take a piece of paper and pierce holes in it with a needle, and look at the sun through these holes.



On the luminousity of the moon (892-901).



As I propose to treat of the nature of the moon, it is necessary that first I should describe the perspective of mirrors, whether plane, concave or convex; and first what is meant by a luminous ray, and how it is refracted by various kinds of media; then, when a reflected ray is most powerful, whether when the angle of incidence is acute, right, or obtuse, or from a convex, a plane, or a concave surface; or from an opaque or a transparent body. Besides this, how it is that the solar rays which fall on the waves of the sea, are seen by the eye of the same width at the angle nearest to the eye, as at the highest line of the waves on the horizon; but notwithstanding this the solar rays reflected from the waves of the sea assume the pyramidal form and consequently, at each degree of distance increase proportionally in size, although to our sight, they appear as parallel.

1st. Nothing that has very little weight is opaque.

2dly. Nothing that is excessively weighty can remain beneath that which is heavier.

3dly. As to whether the moon is situated in the centre of its elements or not.

And, if it has no proper place of its own, like the earth, in the midst of its elements, why does it not fall to the centre of our elements? [Footnote 26: The problem here propounded by Leonardo was not satisfactorily answered till Newton in 1682 formulated the law of universal attraction and gravitation. Compare No. 902, lines 5-15.]

And, if the moon is not in the centre of its own elements and yet does not fall, it must then be lighter than any other element.

And, if the moon is lighter than the other elements why is it opaque and not transparent?

When objects of various sizes, being placed at various distances, look of equal size, there must be the same relative proportion in the distances as in the magnitudes of the objects.

[Footnote: In the diagram Leonardo wrote sole at the place marked A.]



The image of the sun in the moon is powerfully luminous, and is only on a small portion of its surface. And the proof may be seen by taking a ball of burnished gold and placing it in the dark with a light at some distance from it; and then, although it will illuminate about half of the ball, the eye will perceive its reflection only in a small part of its surface, and all the rest of the surface reflects the darkness which surrounds it; so that it is only in that spot that the image of the light is seen, and all the rest remains invisible, the eye being at a distance from the ball. The same thing would happen on the surface of the moon if it were polished, lustrous and opaque, like all bodies with a reflecting surface.

Show how, if you were standing on the moon or on a star, our earth would seem to reflect the sun as the moon does.

And show that the image of the sun in the sea cannot appear one and undivided, as it appears in a perfectly plane mirror.


How shadows are lost at great distances, as is shown by the shadow side of the moon which is never seen. [Footnote: Compare also Vol. I, Nos. 175-179.]


Either the moon has intrinsic luminosity or not. If it has, why does it not shine without the aid of the sun? But if it has not any light in itself it must of necessity be a spherical mirror; and if it is a mirror, is it not proved in Perspective that the image of a luminous object will never be equal to the extent of surface of the reflecting body that it illuminates? And if it be thus [Footnote 13: At A, in the diagram, Leonardo wrote "sole" (the sun), and at B "luna o noi terra" (the moon or our earth). Compare also the text of No. 876.], as is here shown at r s in the figure, whence comes so great an extent of radiance as that of the full moon as we see it, at the fifteenth day of the moon?



The moon has no light in itself; but so much of it as faces the sun is illuminated, and of that illumined portion we see so much as faces the earth. And the moon's night receives just as much light as is lent it by our waters as they reflect the image of the sun, which is mirrored in all those waters which are on the side towards the sun. The outside or surface of the waters forming the seas of the moon and of the seas of our globe is always ruffled little or much, or more or less--and this roughness causes an extension of the numberless images of the sun which are repeated in the ridges and hollows, the sides and fronts of the innumerable waves; that is to say in as many different spots on each wave as our eyes find different positions to view them from. This could not happen, if the aqueous sphere which covers a great part of the moon were uniformly spherical, for then the images of the sun would be one to each spectator, and its reflections would be separate and independent and its radiance would always appear circular; as is plainly to be seen in the gilt balls placed on the tops of high buildings. But if those gilt balls were rugged or composed of several little balls, like mulberries, which are a black fruit composed of minute round globules, then each portion of these little balls, when seen in the sun, would display to the eye the lustre resulting from the reflection of the sun, and thus, in one and the same body many tiny suns would be seen; and these often combine at a long distance and appear as one. The lustre of the new moon is brighter and stronger, than when the moon is full; and the reason of this is that the angle of incidence is more obtuse in the new than in the full moon, in which the angles [of incidence and reflection] are highly acute. The waves of the moon therefore mirror the sun in the hollows of the waves as well as on the ridges, and the sides remain in shadow. But at the sides of the moon the hollows of the waves do not catch the sunlight, but only their crests; and thus the images are fewer and more mixed up with the shadows in the hollows; and this intermingling of the shaded and illuminated spots comes to the eye with a mitigated splendour, so that the edges will be darker, because the curves of the sides of the waves are insufficient to reflect to the eye the rays that fall upon them. Now the new moon naturally reflects the solar rays more directly towards the eye from the crests of the waves than from any other part, as is shown by the form of the moon, whose rays a strike the waves b and are reflected in the line b d, the eye being situated at d. This cannot happen at the full moon, when the solar rays, being in the west, fall on the extreme waters of the moon to the East from n to m, and are not reflected to the eye in the West, but are thrown back eastwards, with but slight deflection from the straight course of the solar ray; and thus the angle of incidence is very wide indeed.

The moon is an opaque and solid body and if, on the contrary, it were transparent, it would not receive the light of the sun.

The yellow or yolk of an egg remains in the middle of the albumen, without moving on either side; now it is either lighter or heavier than this albumen, or equal to it; if it is lighter, it ought to rise above all the albumen and stop in contact with the shell of the egg; and if it is heavier, it ought to sink, and if it is equal, it might just as well be at one of the ends, as in the middle or below [54].

[Footnote 48-64: Compare No. 861.]

The innumerable images of the solar rays reflected from the innumerable waves of the sea, as they fall upon those waves, are what cause us to see the very broad and continuous radiance on the surface of the sea.


That the sun could not be mirrored in the body of the moon, which is a convex mirror, in such a way as that so much of its surface as is illuminated by the sun, should reflect the sun unless the moon had a surface adapted to reflect it--in waves and ridges, like the surface of the sea when its surface is moved by the wind.

[Footnote: In the original diagrams sole is written at the place marked A; luna at C, and terra at the two spots marked B.]

The waves in water multiply the image of the object reflected in it.

These waves reflect light, each by its own line, as the surface of the fir cone does [Footnote 14: See the diagram p. 145.]

These are 2 figures one different from the other; one with undulating water and the other with smooth water.

It is impossible that at any distance the image of the sun cast on the surface of a spherical body should occupy the half of the sphere.

Here you must prove that the earth produces all the same effects with regard to the moon, as the moon with regard to the earth.

The moon, with its reflected light, does not shine like the sun, because the light of the moon is not a continuous reflection of that of the sun on its whole surface, but only on the crests and hollows of the waves of its waters; and thus the sun being confusedly reflected, from the admixture of the shadows that lie between the lustrous waves, its light is not pure and clear as the sun is.

[Footnote 38: This refers to the small diagram placed between B and B.--]. The earth between the moon on the fifteenth day and the sun. [Footnote 39: See the diagram below the one referred to in the preceding note.] Here the sun is in the East and the moon on the fifteenth day in the West. [Footnote 40.41: Refers to the diagram below the others.] The moon on the fifteenth [day] between the earth and the sun. [41]Here it is the moon which has the sun to the West and the earth to the East.



The moon is not of itself luminous, but is highly fitted to assimilate the character of light after the manner of a mirror, or of water, or of any other reflecting body; and it grows larger in the East and in the West, like the sun and the other planets. And the reason is that every luminous body looks larger in proportion as it is remote. It is easy to understand that every planet and star is farther from us when in the West than when it is overhead, by about 3500 miles, as is proved on the margin [Footnote 7: refers to the first diagram.--A = sole (the sun), B = terra (the earth), C = luna (the moon).], and if you see the sun or moon mirrored in the water near to you, it looks to you of the same size in the water as in the sky. But if you recede to the distance of a mile, it will look 100 times larger; and if you see the sun reflected in the sea at sunset, its image would look to you more than 10 miles long; because that reflected image extends over more than 10 miles of sea. And if you could stand where the moon is, the sun would look to you, as if it were reflected from all the sea that it illuminates by day; and the land amid the water would appear just like the dark spots that are on the moon, which, when looked at from our earth, appears to men the same as our earth would appear to any men who might dwell in the moon.

[Footnote: This text has already been published by LIBRI: Histoire des Sciences, III, pp. 224, 225.]


When the moon is entirely lighted up to our sight, we see its full daylight; and at that time, owing to the reflection of the solar rays which fall on it and are thrown off towards us, its ocean casts off less moisture towards us; and the less light it gives the more injurious it is.



I say that as the moon has no light in itself and yet is luminous, it is inevitable but that its light is caused by some other body.



All my opponent's arguments to say that there is no water in the moon. [Footnote: The objections are very minutely noted down in the manuscript, but they hardly seem to have a place here.]


Answer to Maestro Andrea da Imola, who said that the solar rays reflected from a convex mirror are mingled and lost at a short distance; whereby it is altogether denied that the luminous side of the moon is of the nature of a mirror, and that consequently the light is not produced by the innumerable multitude of the waves of that sea, which I declared to be the portion of the moon which is illuminated by the solar rays.

Let o p be the body of the sun, c n s the moon, and b the eye which, above the base c n of the cathetus c n m, sees the body of the sun reflected at equal angles c n; and the same again on moving the eye from b to a. [Footnote: The large diagram on the margin of page 161 belongs to this chapter.]

Explanation of the lumen cinereum in the moon.



No solid body is less heavy than the atmosphere.

[Footnote: 1. On the margin are the words tola romantina, tola--ferro stagnato (tinned iron); romantina is some special kind of sheet-iron no longer known by that name.]

Having proved that the part of the moon that shines consists of water, which mirrors the body of the sun and reflects the radiance it receives from it; and that, if these waters were devoid of waves, it would appear small, but of a radiance almost like the sun; --[5] It must now be shown whether the moon is a heavy or a light body: for, if it were a heavy body--admitting that at every grade of distance from the earth greater levity must prevail, so that water is lighter than the earth, and air than water, and fire than air and so on successively--it would seem that if the moon had density as it really has, it would have weight, and having weight, that it could not be sustained in the space where it is, and consequently that it would fall towards the centre of the universe and become united to the earth; or if not the moon itself, at least its waters would fall away and be lost from it, and descend towards the centre, leaving the moon without any and so devoid of lustre. But as this does not happen, as might in reason be expected, it is a manifest sign that the moon is surrounded by its own elements: that is to say water, air and fire; and thus is, of itself and by itself, suspended in that part of space, as our earth with its element is in this part of space; and that heavy bodies act in the midst of its elements just as other heavy bodies do in ours [Footnote 15: This passage would certainly seem to establish Leonardo's claim to be regarded as the original discoverer of the cause of the ashy colour of the new moon (lumen cinereum). His observations however, having hitherto remained unknown to astronomers, Moestlin and Kepler have been credited with the discoveries which they made independently a century later.

Some disconnected notes treat of the same subject in MS. C.

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