Scientist, painter, mechanical engineer, sculptor, thinker, city planner, storyteller, musician, architect — Leonardo da Vinci, builder of the first flying machine, was one of the great universal geniuses of Western civilization. His voluminous notebooks, the great storehouse of his theories and discoveries, are presented here in 1566 extracts that reveal the full range of Leonardo's versatile interest: all the important writings on painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, astronomy, geography, topography, and other fields are included, in both Italian and English, with 186 plates of manuscript pages and many other drawings reproduced in facsimile size.
The first volume, which contains all of Leonardo's writings on aspects of painting, includes discussions of such basic scientific areas as the structure of the eye and vision, perspective, the science of light and shade, the perspective of disappearance, theory of color, perspective of color, proportions and movements of the human figure, botany for painters, and the elements of landscape painting. A section on the practice of painting includes moral precepts for painters and writings on composition, materials, and the philosophy of art. The second volume contains writings on sculpture, architecture (plans for towns, streets, and canals, churches, palaces, castles, and villas, theoretical writings on arches, domes, fissures, etc.), zoology, physiology (including his amazingly accurate theories of blood circulation), medicine, astronomy, geography (including has famous writings and drawings on the movement of water), topography (observations in Italy, France, and other areas), naval warfare, swimming, theory of flying machines, mining, music, and other topics.
A selection of philosophical maxims, morals, polemics, fables, jests, studies in the lives and habits of animals, tales, and prophecies display Leonardo's abilities as a writer and scholar. The second volume also contains some letters, personal records, inventories, and accounts, and concludes with Leonardo's will. The drawings include sketches and studies for some of Leonardo's greatest works of art — The Last Supper, the lost Battle of Anghiari, The Virgin of the Rocks, and the destroyed Sforza monument.