Leonardo da Vinci's DiaryI recently heard a story on National Public Radio about Leonardo da Vinci's "To Do" list, related by historian Toby Lester in his new book, "da Vinci's Ghost," and how the Renaissance Man used to organize his thoughts. Whenever something caught his eye, said Lester, da Vinci would scribble a few notes, or start sketching his ideas in his notebook.
That's because da Vinci believed it was useful to "constantly observe, note, and consider" the things he saw around him. And many of those notes and sketches resulted in his some of the most famous paintings, drawings, ideas, and inventions that we still know and use today.
I've done the same thing for years, although not with the same effect and accomplishment as the industrious Italian. Most of my long-lasting contributions are boob jokes, and not even very good ones at that.
But I also have one thing that Lester doesn't have. And that's an old copy of one of Leonardo da Vinci's diaries, which I have translated into English. These are a few of the highlights.
September 19, 1487 — One of my assistants told me about some guy in the next village who was born with four arms and four legs. Totally have to draw this guy. No one's going to believe this at all. Not even sure I do.
November 4, 1487 — Found the four-armed guy. His name is Wendell. He really does have four arms and legs. Was hoping he'd have two heads or something cool like that. But no, it's just the one guy with an extra pair of limbs. Dude runs like a horse though. Watched him outrun a group of villagers on horseback. Of course, he can't fight at all, although a slapfight by a four-armed man is pretty hilarious.
June 13, 1488 — Had an idea for a flying machine. Been watching all these birds, and started sketching some ideas. I'll have to get around to building one of these things. Would be very useful for flying from home to the office. I'd need to figure out a way to launch the machine though. Maybe a giant crossbow. . .
March 15, 1492 — Was just fired by Ludovico from the Big Horse project. Was supposed to cast a giant horse statue made out of bronze, but Michelangelo torpedoed the whole project. Put a bug in Lou's ear that he didn't think I was up to the task.
I really hate that damn Michelango! May paint a picture of his sister just to get him back. She's not that pretty, so it'll be kind of funny to show it around. She's got a pretty smile though. Nice white teeth, which is pretty rare around these parts.
August 12, 1492 — Just heard that Chris Columbus is heading off to find the New World, wherever the heck that is. Laughed for 10 minutes when I heard it. That guy couldn't find his ass with both hands and a torch. He once got lost on his way home from the inn down the road from his house. His wife's dumber than he is though. Heard he was going on this voyage just to get away from her. Bet he'll be back in six weeks, having discovered Amsterdam.
January 5, 1505 — Well, it took me 13 years to finally get around to it, but I finally painted stupid Mikey Angelo's sister. She's kind of cute in a way, but her teeth were awful. She was missing half of them and the other half looked like they had been pecked at by woodpeckers. Blargh. Just told her to keep her mouth shut while I painted. This was a problem, since Michelangelo's family is a bunch of mouth breathers. She had to take a huge breath every 90 seconds, which just made the whole thing take longer. Could have had this done in three days, but it took me six weeks. Oh well, it's not that great. I'll probably just give it away. Not like it'll be worth much.
July 3, 1508 — Just heard Michelangelo was "asked" by the Pope to paint the Sistine Chapel. I don't know who the bigger moron is, Mikey or Pope Julius. Mike's a great artist and everything, but he's more of a sculptor than a painter. I mean, I painted the Last Freakin' Supper, which Pope Pius III loved, and Mike gets to paint an entire chapel? Jerk. He'll probably slap something up in a couple of weeks and be done with it. Would have been nice to be asked though. Of course, I'd have stuck Wendell up there. That'd be kind of awesome.
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