Drafts of Letters to Lodovico il Moro.

[Footnote: The numerous corrections, the alterations in the figures (l. 18) and the absence of any signature prove that this is merely the rough draft of a letter to Lodovico il Moro. It is one of the very few manuscripts which are written from left to right—see the facsimile of the beginning as here reproduced. This is probably the final sketch of a document the clean of which copy was written in the usual manner. Leonardo no doubt very rarely wrote so, and this is probably the reason of the conspicuous dissimilarity in the handwriting, when he did. (Compare Pl. XXXVIII.) It is noteworthy too that here the orthography and abbreviations are also exceptional. But such superficial peculiarities are not enough to stamp the document as altogether spurious. It is neither a forgery nor the production of any artist but Leonardo himself. As to this point the contents leave us no doubt as to its authenticity, particularly l. 32 (see No. 719, where this passage is repeated). But whether the fragment, as we here see it, was written from Leonardo’s dictation—a theory favoured by the orthography, the erasures and corrections—or whether it may be a copy made for or by Melzi or Mazenta is comparatively unimportant. There are in the Codex Atlanticus a few other documents not written by Leonardo himself, but the notes in his own hand found on the reverse pages of these leaves amply prove that they were certainly in Leonardo’s possession. This mark of ownership is wanting to the text in question, but the compilers of the Codex Atlanticus, at any rate, accepted it as a genuine document.

With regard to the probable date of this projected letter see Vol. II, p. 3.]

Most illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different to those in common use: I shall endeavour, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency showing your Lordship my secrets, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments as well as all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

1) I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2) I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3) Item. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, &c.

4) Again I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these causing great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

9) [8] And when the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offence and defence; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

5) Item. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise to reach a designated [spot], even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

6) Item. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

7) Item. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

8) Where the operation of bombardment should fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offence and defence.

10) In time of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

Item: I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, and also in painting whatever may be done, and as well as any other, be he whom he may.

[32] Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any one of the above-named things seem to any one to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency—to whom I commend myself with the utmost humility &c.

Taken from The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci edited by Jean Paul Richter, 1880.

Notebooks of Leonoardo da Vinci
XXI: Letters. Personal Records. Dated Notes.
Drafts of Letters and Reports referring to Armenia.
Notes about events observed abroad.
Drafts of Letters to Lodovico il Moro.
Draft of letter to be sent to Piacenza.
Letter to the Cardinal Ippolito d’ Este.
Draft of Letter to the Governor of Milan.
Drafts of Letters to the Superintendent of Canals and to Fr. Melzi.
Drafts of a letter to Giuliano de’ Medici.
Draft of letter written at Rome.
Miscellaneous Records.
Miscellaneous drafts of letters and personal records.
. . .