A to-do list

Say, are you feeling as though you don’t have enough to do right now? Or are you feeling inordinately proud of how busy you are? This is a page from Leonardo da Vinci’s to-do list from a day in the 1490s, when he was in his 40s and busily painting and sculpting things and inventing helicopters and just generally being a renaissance man. These are from his hobbies notebook, so there’s a lack of work-related chores: no “Complete ‘The Madonna of the Rocks’ by Tuesday”, or “File tax returns” or “Reply to Jon’s snippy email”. These are just the extramural interests that were occupying him – books to read, fun tasks to complete, people to meet who might teach him things.

  • [Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs
  • [Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio
  • [Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio (the courtyard in the duke’s palace).
  • [Discover] the measurement of the castello (the duke’s palace itself)
  • Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.
  • Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.
  • Get the Brera Friar (at the Benedictine Monastery to Milan) to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)
  • [Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes (no one really knows what Da Vinci meant by this)
  • Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders
  • Draw Milan
  • Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
  • [Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto
  • Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner
  • [Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese
  • Try to get Vitolone (the medieval author of a text on optics), which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.