Leonardo Da Vinci’s “To Do” List
The least ordinary man’s most ordinary list, as beautiful and brilliant as his work.
Reading personal lists, just like reading someone else’s journal is, to a certain degree, to incur in prying in something that doesn’t concern us, even if we’re reading from the future and feel like this redeems us. But we snoop the intimate texts of an artist because we know that, even if the text was not originally meant to be published, that is where true jewels lie. This is the case of the list found below containing Leonardo Da Vinci’s “To Do” list, which Robert Krulwich transcribed with a dab of added context.
There are two fundamental elements that make this list so fascinating: how anachronistic it is to read now notes taken 500 years ago, in which a man discovers the golden ratio with his own hands, and, of course, reading the ordinary errands of a man who was everything but ordinary. The everyday life of Da Vinci is brimming with the most elevated of curiosities and it is perhaps as beautiful and brilliant as his works. He simply wanted to know it all.
[Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs
[Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio
[Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio (the courtyard in the duke’s palace).
[Discover] the measurement of the castello (the duke’s palace itself)
Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.
Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.
Get the Brera Friar (at the Benedictine Monastery to Milan) to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)
[Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes (no one really knows what Da Vinci meant by this)
Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders
Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
[Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto
Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner
[Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese
Try to get Vitolone (the medieval author of a text on optics), which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.