The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 31

[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.



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 waters flow.

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.

[3] 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 confluence (972-974).


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. Mugnone.]


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 ceppo."]




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 form islands.]



Whirlpools, that is to say caverns; that is to say places left by precipitated waters.

On the alterations in the channels of rivers.



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 rise.

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.



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.



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 sun.

[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 work.]

That marine shells could not go up the mountains.



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).



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.

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