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Leonard da Vinci's Notebooks: An Inspiration

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In his work from day to day Leonard da Vinci concentrated on one thing at a time and, while he concentrated on that one thing, that thing was the most important in the world. Not much got done in the short term because da Vinci seemed interested in everything but, over a lifetime, da Vinci accomplished many great things, albeit unfinished.

After his death Leonard da Vinci’s Notebooks were hidden away, scattered or lost. His wonderful ideas were forgotten; his inventions were not tested and built for hundreds of years. It was largely due to his wide interests that the things he started were never finished.

These casual, passing, fleeting, but intense, interests can be found described, outlined, in those Notebooks. These Notebooks record his observations, his sketches, his notes. They are all scattered through 28 Notebooks in over 5000 pages from 1490 to 1519. The Notebooks are a fascinating mixture of philosophy, scientific enquiry and art with, arguably, four major topics: painting, architecture, mechanics and anatomy made when he was 37 to 67.-Ron Price with thanks to ABC TV, “Leonardo da Vinci,” 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., October 31st, 2004.
Some may see it a little presumptuous to compare my Notebooks to those of one of the greatest geniuses of history. But, as Bahiyyih Nakhjavani writes in her article "Artist, Seeker and Seer", our greatness “rests not in ourselves as much as in our ability and desire to circle around the great.”(1) ‘Contrast’ is a better word than ‘compare’ because my Notebooks are so very different than da Vinci’s.

I won’t ennumerate all the differences; perhaps the main difference is a visual bias in his work and a print bias in mine. Mine were collected some 500 years after da Vinci’s. Perhaps the first Notebook I created was in 1949 in kindergarten and from that year until 1962 I created many a school Notebook.

None of these notes now exist except two essays from English class in 1961-2 and now located in my Journal Volume 1.1. I have some other notes going back to the early to mid sixties, to the start of my pioneering life in 1961-2, newspaper columns by Richard Needham of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the 1970s, mostly (a) photocopies of material given to me by students at Box Hill Tafe, (b) from Baha’i books which I keep in my Notebook: “Notes/Quotes file B,” (c) from a sociology of art course I taught in 1974 and (d) from media studies courses I taught in Ballarat in 1976-7.

The vast bulk of my notes comes from the 30 year period 1982 to 2012. Many notes and Notebooks from 1982 to 2002 were given to the Baha’i Council of the Northern Territory as part of the History of the Baha’i Faith in that territory.(2)

What exists now in my study are notes and Notebooks for the nearly 30 year period, 1984 to 2012, from the age of 40 to 68. The collection of 260(ca) Notebooks, in the form of two-ring binders and arch-lever files, consists of written notes and quotes from books on a multitude of subjects, photocopies and typed copies of the works of others and notes taken mostly from my reading and to a far lesser extent my observations and experiences.

There are many categories of these Notebooks: (i) journal and diary Notebooks, (ii) Baha’i Notebooks and (iii) Notebooks on a multitude of humanities and social science disciplines/topics. I have made a list of these and previous Notebooks in Section IX.1 of my files. They are found in the same file as: Section VI, Volume 2: Part 1: Unpublished Writings. I have also added additional information on the notebooks of other writers to help provide perspectives on my own notes and note-keeping.

I should add, too, that there are many (iv) poetry Notebooks which occupy an extensive category unto itself. One could say that these are the four main categories of Notebooks that I have in my study twenty-one years after I began to keep notes that became the collection that now exists.(3)

New ideas are incubated, to some extent, in these Notebooks. I have squeezed brief writing periods, sketches of varying lengths and tasks of different kinds, into my frenetic life out of necessity because I was teaching a particular subject, out of interest because it was associated with my involvement in the Baha’i Faith or because I wanted to write about a subject, an idea, an experience, if not at the time I recorded the words, at least later on. I rarely recorded observations of nature in any detail, although occasionally I did in my poetry. The accounts of my experiences can be found in my journals and my poetry.

There are 1000s of pages of notes; I would not even want to begin to count them. Over time I hope to write a more detailed outline of their origins, their evolution and their present contents. I’m not sure they are worth preserving as da Vinci’s were hundreds of years after they were written. I think it unlikely, although I will leave that to a posterity that I can scarcely anticipate at this climacteric of history in which I am living. For now, though, this brief statement is sufficient.(4)
(1)Bahiyyih Nakhjvani, “Artist, Seeker and Seer,” Baha’i Studies, Vol.10, p.19.
(2) My Notebooks from the age of 18 to 39, from 1962 to 1984, are so minuscule as to hardly rate a mention. Those from the age of 5 to 18, although extensive, have disappeared into the dustbin of history. My first notes from the period 1984 to 2004 come from January 19th 1984, a journal entry. A more extensive analysis than this cursory one here may reveal a different timetable, a different history of my Notebooks.
(3) Of course the whole note-taking process could be said to begin in the early years of primary school, say, 1949-1953 bu which time I was in grade 4 and nine years old.
(4) Ron Price, “In Commemoration of the 47th Anniversary of the Passing of the Guardian in 1957,” Pioneering Over Four Epochs, November 4, 2004.
Ron Price
July 31st 2005 and
Updated On: 26/2/'12

Updated 02-26-2012 at 12:08 AM by Ron Price (to add some words)