The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 39

A man said to an acquaintance: "Your eyes are changed to a strange colour." The other replied: "It often happens, but you have not noticed it." "When does it happen?" said the former. "Every time that my eyes see your ugly face, from the shock of so unpleasing a sight they suddenly turn pale and change to a strange colour."

A man said to another: "Your eyes are changed to a strange colour." The other replied: "It is because my eyes behold your strange ugly face."

A man said that in his country were the strangest things in the world. Another answered: "You, who were born there, confirm this as true, by the strangeness of your ugly face."

[Footnote: The joke turns, it appears, on two meanings of trarre and is not easily translated.]


An old man was publicly casting contempt on a young one, and boldly showing that he did not fear him; on which the young man replied that his advanced age served him better as a shield than either his tongue or his strength.



A sick man finding himself in articulo mortis heard a knock at the door, and asking one of his servants who was knocking, the servant went out, and answered that it was a woman calling herself Madonna Bona. Then the sick man lifting his arms to Heaven thanked God with a loud voice, and told the servants that they were to let her come in at once, so that he might see one good woman before he died, since in all his life he had never yet seen one.



A man was desired to rise from bed, because the sun was already risen. To which he replied: "If I had as far to go, and as much to do as he has, I should be risen by now; but having but a little way to go, I shall not rise yet."


A man, seeing a woman ready to hold up the target for a jousting match, exclaimed, looking at the shield, and considering his spear: "Alack! this is too small a workman for so great a business."





First, of things relating to animals; secondly, of irrational creatures; thirdly of plants; fourthly, of ceremonies; fifthly, of manners; sixthly, of cases or edicts or quarrels; seventhly, of cases that are impossible in nature [paradoxes], as, for instance, of those things which, the more is taken from them, the more they grow. And reserve the great matters till the end, and the small matters give at the beginning. And first show the evils and then the punishment of philosophical things.

(Of Ants.)

These creatures will form many communities, which will hide themselves and their young ones and victuals in dark caverns, and they will feed themselves and their families in dark places for many months without any light, artificial or natural.

[Footnote: Lines 1--5l are in the original written in one column, beginning with the text of line 11. At the end of the column is the programme for the arrangement of the prophecies, placed here at the head: Lines 56--79 form a second column, lines 80--97 a third one (see the reproduction of the text on the facsimile PI. CXVIII).

Another suggestion for the arrangement of the prophecies is to be found among the notes 55--57 on page 357.]

(Of Bees.)

And many others will be deprived of their store and their food, and will be cruelly submerged and drowned by folks devoid of reason. Oh Justice of God! Why dost thou not wake and behold thy creatures thus ill used?

(Of Sheep, Cows, Goats and the like.)

Endless multitudes of these will have their little children taken from them ripped open and flayed and most barbarously quartered.

(Of Nuts, and Olives, and Acorns, and Chesnuts, and such like.)

Many offspring shall be snatched by cruel thrashing from the very arms of their mothers, and flung on the ground, and crushed.

(Of Children bound in Bundles.)

O cities of the Sea! In you I see your citizens--both females and males--tightly bound, arms and legs, with strong withes by folks who will not understand your language. And you will only be able to assuage your sorrows and lost liberty by means of tearful complaints and sighing and lamentation among yourselves; for those who will bind you will not understand you, nor will you understand them.

(Of Cats that eat Rats.)

In you, O cities of Africa your children will be seen quartered in their own houses by most cruel and rapacious beasts of your own country.

(Of Asses that are beaten.)

[Footnote 48: Compare No. 845.] O Nature! Wherefore art thou so partial; being to some of thy children a tender and benign mother, and to others a most cruel and pitiless stepmother? I see children of thine given up to slavery to others, without any sort of advantage, and instead of remuneration for the good they do, they are paid with the severest suffering, and spend their whole life in benefitting those who ill treat them.

(Of Men who sleep on boards of Trees.)

Men shall sleep, and eat, and dwell among trees, in the forests and open country.

(Of Dreaming.)

Men will seem to see new destructions in the sky. The flames that fall from it will seem to rise in it and to fly from it with terror. They will hear every kind of animals speak in human language. They will instantaneously run in person in various parts of the world, without motion. They will see the greatest splendour in the midst of darkness. O! marvel of the human race! What madness has led you thus! You will speak with animals of every species and they with you in human speech. You will see yourself fall from great heights without any harm and torrents will accompany you, and will mingle with their rapid course.

(Of Christians.)

Many who hold the faith of the Son only build temples in the name of the Mother.

(Of Food which has been alive.)

[84] A great portion of bodies that have been alive will pass into the bodies of other animals; which is as much as to say, that the deserted tenements will pass piecemeal into the inhabited ones, furnishing them with good things, and carrying with them their evils. That is to say the life of man is formed from things eaten, and these carry with them that part of man which dies . . .


(Of Funeral Rites, and Processions, and Lights, and Bells, and Followers.)

The greatest honours will be paid to men, and much pomp, without their knowledge.

[Footnote: A facsimile of this text is on PI. CXVI below on the right, but the writing is larger than the other notes on the same sheet and of a somewhat different style. The ink is also of a different hue, as may be seen on the original sheet at Milan.]


(Of the Avaricious.)

There will be many who will eagerly and with great care and solicitude follow up a thing, which, if they only knew its malignity, would always terrify them.

(Of those men, who, the older they grow, the more avaricious they become, whereas, having but little time to stay, they should become more liberal.)

We see those who are regarded as being most experienced and judicious, when they least need a thing, seek and cherish it with most avidity.

(Of the Ditch.)

Many will be busied in taking away from a thing, which will grow in proportion as it is diminished.

(Of a Weight placed on a Feather-pillow.)

And it will be seen in many bodies that by raising the head they swell visibly; and by laying the raised head down again, their size will immediately be diminished.

(Of catching Lice.)

And many will be hunters of animals, which, the fewer there are the more will be taken; and conversely, the more there are, the fewer will be taken.

(Of Drawing Water in two Buckets with a single Rope.)

And many will be busily occupied, though the more of the thing they draw up, the more will escape at the other end.

(Of the Tongues of Pigs and Calves in Sausage-skins.)

Oh! how foul a thing, that we should see the tongue of one animal in the guts of another.

(Of Sieves made of the Hair of Animals.)

We shall see the food of animals pass through their skin everyway excepting through their mouths, and penetrate from the outside downwards to the ground.

(Of Lanterns.)

[Footnote 35: Lanterns were in Italy formerly made of horn.] The cruel horns of powerful bulls will screen the lights of night against the wild fury of the winds.

(Of Feather-beds.)

Flying creatures will give their very feathers to support men.

(Of Animals which walk on Trees--wearing wooden Shoes.)

The mire will be so great that men will walk on the trees of their country.

(Of the Soles of Shoes, which are made from the Ox.)

And in many parts of the country men will be seen walking on the skins of large beasts.

(Of Sailing in Ships.)

There will be great winds by reason of which things of the East will become things of the West; and those of the South, being involved in the course of the winds, will follow them to distant lands.

(Of Worshipping the Pictures of Saints.)

Men will speak to men who hear not; having their eyes open, they will not see; they will speak to these, and they will not be answered. They will implore favours of those who have ears and hear not; they will make light for the blind.

(Of Sawyers.)

There will be many men who will move one against another, holding in their hands a cutting tool. But these will not do each other any injury beyond tiring each other; for, when one pushes forward the other will draw back. But woe to him who comes between them! For he will end by being cut in pieces.

(Of Silk-spinning.)

Dismal cries will be heard loud, shrieking with anguish, and the hoarse and smothered tones of those who will be despoiled, and at last left naked and motionless; and this by reason of the mover, which makes every thing turn round.

(Of putting Bread into the Mouth of the Oven and taking it out again.)

In every city, land, castle and house, men shall be seen, who for want of food will take it out of the mouths of others, who will not be able to resist in any way.

(Of tilled Land.)

The Earth will be seen turned up side down and facing the opposite hemispheres, uncovering the lurking holes of the fiercest animals.

(Of Sowing Seed.)

Then many of the men who will remain alive, will throw the victuals they have preserved out of their houses, a free prey to the birds and beasts of the earth, without taking any care of them at all.

(Of the Rains, which, by making the Rivers muddy, wash away the Land.)

[Footnote 81: Compare No. 945.] Something will fall from the sky which will transport a large part of Africa which lies under that sky towards Europe, and that of Europe towards Africa, and that of the Scythian countries will meet with tremendous revolutions [Footnote 84: Compare No. 945.].

(Of Wood that burns.)

The trees and shrubs in the great forests will be converted into cinder.

(Of Kilns for Bricks and Lime.)

Finally the earth will turn red from a conflagration of many days and the stones will be turned to cinders.

(Of boiled Fish.)

The natives of the waters will die in the boiling flood.

(Of the Olives which fall from the Olive trees, shedding oil which makes light.)

And things will fall with great force from above, which will give us nourishment and light.

(Of Owls and screech owls and what will happen to certain birds.)

Many will perish of dashing their heads in pieces, and the eyes of many will jump out of their heads by reason of fearful creatures come out of the darkness.

(Of flax which works the cure of men.)

That which was at first bound, cast out and rent by many and various beaters will be respected and honoured, and its precepts will be listened to with reverence and love.

(Of Books which teach Precepts.)

Bodies without souls will, by their contents give us precepts by which to die well.

(Of Flagellants.)

Men will hide themselves under the bark of trees, and, screaming, they will make themselves martyrs, by striking their own limbs.

(Of the Handles of Knives made of the Horns of Sheep.)

We shall see the horns of certain beasts fitted to iron tools, which will take the lives of many of their kind.

(Of Night when no Colour can be discerned.)

There will come a time when no difference can be discerned between colours, on the contrary, everything will be black alike.

(Of Swords and Spears which by themselves never hurt any one.)

One who by himself is mild enough and void of all offence will become terrible and fierce by being in bad company, and will most cruelly take the life of many men, and would kill many more if they were not hindered by bodies having no soul, that have come out of caverns--that is, breastplates of iron.

(Of Snares and Traps.)

Many dead things will move furiously, and will take and bind the living, and will ensnare them for the enemies who seek their death and destruction.

(Of Metals.)

That shall be brought forth out of dark and obscure caves, which will put the whole human race in great anxiety, peril and death. To many that seek them, after many sorrows they will give delight, and to those who are not in their company, death with want and misfortune. This will lead to the commission of endless crimes; this will increase and persuade bad men to assassinations, robberies and treachery, and by reason of it each will be suspicious of his partner. This will deprive free cities of their happy condition; this will take away the lives of many; this will make men torment each other with many artifices deceptions and treasons. O monstrous creature! How much better would it be for men that every thing should return to Hell! For this the vast forests will be devastated of their trees; for this endless animals will lose their lives.

(Of Fire.)

One shall be born from small beginnings which will rapidly become vast. This will respect no created thing, rather will it, by its power, transform almost every thing from its own nature into another.

(Of Ships which sink.)

Huge bodies will be seen, devoid of life, carrying, in fierce haste, a multitude of men to the destruction of their lives.

(Of Oxen, which are eaten.)

The masters of estates will eat their own labourers.

(Of beating Beds to renew them.)

Men will be seen so deeply ungrateful that they will turn upon that which has harboured them, for nothing at all; they will so load it with blows that a great part of its inside will come out of its place, and will be turned over and over in its body.

(Of Things which are eaten and which first are killed.)

Those who nourish them will be killed by them and afflicted by merciless deaths.

(Of the Reflection of Walls of Cities in the Water of their Ditches.)

The high walls of great cities will be seen up side down in their ditches.

(Of Water, which flows turbid and mixed with Soil and Dust; and of Mist, which is mixed with the Air; and of Fire which is mixed with its own, and each with each.)

All the elements will be seen mixed together in a great whirling mass, now borne towards the centre of the world, now towards the sky; and now furiously rushing from the South towards the frozen North, and sometimes from the East towards the West, and then again from this hemisphere to the other.

(The World may be divided into two Hemispheres at any Point.)

All men will suddenly be transferred into opposite hemispheres.

(The division of the East from the West may be made at any point.)

All living creatures will be moved from the East to the West; and in the same way from North to South, and vice versa.

(Of the Motion of Water which carries wood, which is dead.)

Bodies devoid of life will move by themselves and carry with them endless generations of the dead, taking the wealth from the bystanders.

(Of Eggs which being eaten cannot form Chickens.)

Oh! how many will they be that never come to the birth!

(Of Fishes which are eaten unborn.)

Endless generations will be lost by the death of the pregnant.

(Of the Lamentation on Good Friday.)

Throughout Europe there will be a lamentation of great nations over the death of one man who died in the East.

(Of Dreaming.)

Men will walk and not stir, they will talk to those who are not present, and hear those who do not speak.

(Of a Man's Shadow which moves with him.)

Shapes and figures of men and animals will be seen following these animals and men wherever they flee. And exactly as the one moves the other moves; but what seems so wonderful is the variety of height they assume.

(Of our Shadow cast by the Sun, and our Reflection in the Water at one and the same time.)

Many a time will one man be seen as three and all three move together, and often the most real one quits him.

(Of wooden Chests which contain great Treasures.)

Within walnuts and trees and other plants vast treasures will be found, which lie hidden there and well guarded.

(Of putting out the Light when going to Bed.)

Many persons puffing out a breath with too much haste, will thereby lose their sight, and soon after all consciousness.

(Of the Bells of Mules, which are close to their Ears.)

In many parts of Europe instruments of various sizes will be heard making divers harmonies, with great labour to those who hear them most closely.

(Of Asses.)

The severest labour will be repaid with hunger and thirst, and discomfort, and blows, and goadings, and curses, and great abuse.

(Of Soldiers on horseback.)

Many men will be seen carried by large animals, swift of pace, to the loss of their lives and immediate death.

In the air and on earth animals will be seen of divers colours furiously carrying men to the destruction of their lives.

(Of the Stars of Spurs.)

By the aid of the stars men will be seen who will be as swift as any swift animal.

(Of a Stick, which is dead.)

The motions of a dead thing will make many living ones flee with pain and lamentation and cries.

(Of Tinder.)

With a stone and with iron things will be made visible which before were not seen.


(Of going in Ships.)

We shall see the trees of the great forests of Taurus and of Sinai and of the Appenines and others, rush by means of the air, from East to West and from North to South; and carry, by means of the air, great multitudes of men. Oh! how many vows! Oh! how many deaths! Oh! how many partings of friends and relations! Oh! how many will those be who will never again see their own country nor their native land, and who will die unburied, with their bones strewn in various parts of the world!

(Of moving on All Saints' Day.)

Many will forsake their own dwellings and carry with them all their belongings and will go to live in other parts.

(Of All Souls' Day.)

How many will they be who will bewail their deceased forefathers, carrying lights to them.

(Of Friars, who spending nothing but words, receive great gifts and bestow Paradise.)

Invisible money will procure the triumph of many who will spend it.

(Of Bows made of the Horns of Oxen.)

Many will there be who will die a painful death by means of the horns of cattle.

(Of writing Letters from one Country to another.)

Men will speak with each other from the most remote countries, and reply.

(Of Hemispheres, which are infinite; and which are divided by an infinite number of Lines, so that every Man always has one of these Lines between his Feet.)

Men standing in opposite hemispheres will converse and deride each other and embrace each other, and understand each other's language.

(Of Priests who say Mass.)

There will be many men who, when they go to their labour will put on the richest clothes, and these will be made after the fashion of aprons [petticoats].

(Of Friars who are Confessors.)

And unhappy women will, of their own free will, reveal to men all their sins and shameful and most secret deeds.

(Of Churches and the Habitations of Friars.)

Many will there be who will give up work and labour and poverty of life and goods, and will go to live among wealth in splendid buildings, declaring that this is the way to make themselves acceptable to God.

(Of Selling Paradise.)

An infinite number of men will sell publicly and unhindered things of the very highest price, without leave from the Master of it; while it never was theirs nor in their power; and human justice will not prevent it.

(Of the Dead which are carried to be buried.)

The simple folks will carry vast quantities of lights to light up the road for those who have entirely lost the power of sight.

(Of Dowries for Maidens.)

And whereas, at first, maidens could not be protected against the violence of Men, neither by the watchfulness of parents nor by strong walls, the time will come when the fathers and parents of those girls will pay a large price to a man who wants to marry them, even if they are rich, noble and most handsome. Certainly this seems as though nature wished to eradicate the human race as being useless to the world, and as spoiling all created things.

(Of the Cruelty of Man.)

Animals will be seen on the earth who will always be fighting against each other with the greatest loss and frequent deaths on each side. And there will be no end to their malignity; by their strong limbs we shall see a great portion of the trees of the vast forests laid low throughout the universe; and, when they are filled with food the satisfaction of their desires will be to deal death and grief and labour and wars and fury to every living thing; and from their immoderate pride they will desire to rise towards heaven, but the too great weight of their limbs will keep them down. Nothing will remain on earth, or under the earth or in the waters which will not be persecuted, disturbed and spoiled, and those of one country removed into another. And their bodies will become the sepulture and means of transit of all they have killed.

O Earth! why dost thou not open and engulf them in the fissures of thy vast abyss and caverns, and no longer display in the sight of heaven such a cruel and horrible monster.



There will be many which will increase in their destruction.

(The Ball of Snow rolling over Snow.)

There will be many who, forgetting their existence and their name, will lie as dead on the spoils of other dead creatures.

(Sleeping on the Feathers of Birds.)

The East will be seen to rush to the West and the South to the North in confusion round and about the universe, with great noise and trembling or fury.

(In the East wind which rushes to the West.)

The solar rays will kindle fire on the earth, by which a thing that is under the sky will be set on fire, and, being reflected by some obstacle, it will bend downwards.

(The Concave Mirror kindles a Fire, with which we heat the oven, and this has its foundation beneath its roof.)

A great part of the sea will fly towards heaven and for a long time will not return. (That is, in Clouds.)

There remains the motion which divides the mover from the thing moved.

Those who give light for divine service will be destroyed.(The Bees which make the Wax for Candles)

Dead things will come from underground and by their fierce movements will send numberless human beings out of the world. (Iron, which comes from under ground is dead but the Weapons are made of it which kill so many Men.)

The greatest mountains, even those which are remote from the sea shore, will drive the sea from its place.

(This is by Rivers which carry the Earth they wash away from the Mountains and bear it to the Sea-shore; and where the Earth comes the sea must retire.)

The water dropped from the clouds still in motion on the flanks of mountains will lie still for a long period of time without any motion whatever; and this will happen in many and divers lands.

(Snow, which falls in flakes and is Water.)

The great rocks of the mountains will throw out fire; so that they will burn the timber of many vast forests, and many beasts both wild and tame.

(The Flint in the Tinder-box which makes a Fire that consumes all the loads of Wood of which the Forests are despoiled and with this the flesh of Beasts is cooked.)

Oh! how many great buildings will be ruined by reason of Fire.

(The Fire of great Guns.)

Oxen will be to a great extent the cause of the destruction of cities, and in the same way horses and buffaloes.

(By drawing Guns.)


The Lion tribe will be seen tearing open the earth with their clawed paws and in the caves thus made, burying themselves together with the other animals that are beneath them.

Animals will come forth from the earth in gloomy vesture, which will attack the human species with astonishing assaults, and which by their ferocious bites will make confusion of blood among those they devour.

Again the air will be filled with a mischievous winged race which will assail men and beasts and feed upon them with much noise-- filling themselves with scarlet blood.


Blood will be seen issuing from the torn flesh of men, and trickling down the surface.

Men will have such cruel maladies that they will tear their flesh with their own nails. (The Itch.)

Plants will be seen left without leaves, and the rivers standing still in their channels.

The waters of the sea will rise above the high peaks of the mountains towards heaven and fall again on to the dwellings of men. (That is, in Clouds.)

The largest trees of the forest will be seen carried by the fury of the winds from East to West. (That is across the Sea.)

Men will cast away their own victuals. (That is, in Sowing.)


Human beings will be seen who will not understand each other's speech; that is, a German with a Turk.

Fathers will be seen giving their daughters into the power of man and giving up all their former care in guarding them. (When Girls are married.)

Men will come out their graves turned into flying creatures; and they will attack other men, taking their food from their very hand or table. (As Flies.)

Many will there be who, flaying their mother, will tear the skin from her back. (Husbandmen tilling the Earth.)

Happy will they be who lend ear to the words of the Dead. (Who read good works and obey them.)


Feathers will raise men, as they do birds, towards heaven (that is, by the letters which are written with quills.)

The works of men's hands will occasion their death. (Swords and Spears.)

Men out of fear will cling to the thing they most fear. (That is they will be miserable lest they should fall into misery.)

Things that are separate shall be united and acquire such virtue that they will restore to man his lost memory; that is papyrus [sheets] which are made of separate strips and have preserved the memory of the things and acts of men.

The bones of the Dead will be seen to govern the fortunes of him who moves them. (By Dice.)

Cattle with their horns protect the Flame from its death. (In a Lantern [Footnote 13: See note page 357.].)

The Forests will bring forth young which will be the cause of their death. (The handle of the hatchet.)


Men will deal bitter blows to that which is the cause of their life. (In thrashing Grain.)

The skins of animals will rouse men from their silence with great outcries and curses. (Balls for playing Games.)

Very often a thing that is itself broken is the occasion of much union. (That is the Comb made of split Cane which unites the threads of Silk.)

The wind passing through the skins of animals will make men dance. (That is the Bag-pipe, which makes people dance.)


(Of Walnut trees, that are beaten.)

Those which have done best will be most beaten, and their offspring taken and flayed or peeled, and their bones broken or crushed.

(Of Sculpture.)

Alas! what do I see? The Saviour cru- cified anew.

(Of the Mouth of Man, which is a Sepulchre.)

Great noise will issue from the sepulchres of those who died evil and violent deaths.

(Of the Skins of Animals which have the sense of feeling what is in the things written.)

The more you converse with skins covered with sentiments, the more wisdom will you acquire.

(Of Priests who bear the Host in their body.)

Then almost all the tabernacles in which dwells the Corpus Domini, will be plainly seen walking about of themselves on the various roads of the world.


And those who feed on grass will turn night into day (Tallow.)

And many creatures of land and water will go up among the stars (that is Planets.)

The dead will be seen carrying the living (in Carts and Ships in various places.)

Food shall be taken out of the mouth of many ( the oven's mouth.)

And those which will have their food in their mouth will be deprived of it by the hands of others (the oven.)


(Of Crucifixes which are sold.)

I see Christ sold and crucified afresh, and his Saints suffering Martyrdom.

(Of Physicians, who live by sickness.)

Men will come into so wretched a plight that they will be glad that others will derive profit from their sufferings or from the loss of their real wealth, that is health.

(Of the Religion of Friars, who live by the Saints who have been dead a great while.)

Those who are dead will, after a thou- sand years be those who will give a livelihood to many who are living.

(Of Stones converted into Lime, with which prison walls are made.)

Many things that have been before that time destroyed by fire will deprive many men of liberty.


(Of Children who are suckled.)

Many Franciscans, Dominicans and Benedictines will eat that which at other times was eaten by others, who for some months to come will not be able to speak.

(Of Cockles and Sea Snails which are thrown up by the sea and which rot inside their shells.)

How many will there be who, after they are dead, will putrefy inside their own houses, filling all the surrounding air with a fetid smell.


(Of Mules which have on them rich burdens of silver and gold.)

Much treasure and great riches will be laid upon four-footed beasts, which will convey them to divers places.


(Of the Shadow cast by a man at night with a light.)

Huge figures will appear in human shape, and the nearer you get to them, the more will their immense size diminish.

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