Most of him is lost to us of course.

Mike Lankford, opening lines in his biography titled “Becoming Leonardo: : An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci:

“Most of him is lost to us, of course. The timbre of the voice, the thoughts visible in his eyes, the physical gestures when happy or sad, the way he walked, his smell, his hands, the habitual grimace his friends knew all too well but no one bothered to record—all that is lost. When he was young there was no reason to write any of it down, and when he was old he became too hard to describe, too strange. What to do with Leonardo?”

Walter, Isaacson, author of Leonardo da Vinci, in an interview in By the Book in The New York Times Book Review, Nov 2, 2017:

Q: Which book was most helpful to you in working on your biography of Leonardo da Vinci?

A: Leonardo’s own notebooks. More than 7,000 pages still, miraculously, survive. Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after five hundred years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won’t be. Leonardo crammed every page with drawings and looking-glass notes that seem random but provide intimations of his mental leaps. Scribbled alongside each other, with rhyme if not reason, are math calculations, sketches of his devilish young boyfriend, birds, flying machines, theater props, eddies of water, blood valves, grotesque heads, angels, sawed-apart skulls, tips for painters, and studies for paintings. I love his to-do lists, which have entries like “Describe the tongue of the woodpecker.”

Painting: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci


  1. my highlight is the to do list item.

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  2. He was the first Leonardo. And the last.

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  3. Now, that is what you call a “to do” list. Perfect. I wonder if his notes were ever published ? I’d love to see more.

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  4. An amazing man…I’ve also researched Da Vinci quite a bit for my upcoming fantasy novel, The Kidnapped Smile. I was blown away by the width and breadth of his accomplishments. And, if accounts are reliable, he was also a very likable and fun person to be with, enjoying parties and social gatherings.

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  5. He was WAY ahead of his times.

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  6. His mind always so curious and so fascinating and we are so privileged to be blessed by his enduring, gifts of genius…

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  7. SUCH an amazing mind. He’s definitely one of the people I would love to meet if I could go back in time (that and hang out with the artists in the cafes of Montmartre…sigh.) Tom Ashbrook did a great interview with Isaacson about his new book on NPR’s ‘On Point’ the other day. The comment about the woodpecker’s tongue stuck with me, too.

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  8. Reflecting on the fact that paper notes survived to let us into his fascinating world. Our electronic notes, in whatever media we use, are not likely to be readable after 500 years… fortunately or unfortunately depending on the writer.

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