I’m sure Katharine and I aren’t the only visitors to Leonardo Da Vinci: Experience, Experiment & Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum to be surprised to see the queen’s logo rubber stamped on each page of the renaissance man’s notebooks. Neither of us had written ‘this belongs to me’ inside a book or similar since primary school and there can be little need for such vandalism. Anybody who knows the notebooks for what are they are, must surely also know that they are HRH’s personal property bought with pennies earned from many hours of honest toil.
Anyway. This is something a shrine around which snakes quite a queue of hushed, eager souls pouring over artefacts created by the greatest mind the world has known. You will groan when you reach the end to hear that not only was Da Vinci a great biologist, mathematician, physicist, artist, dramatist and the rest… people travelled miles to hear him sing. B’stard!
It is impossible not to be impressed. Da Vinci did have the great advantage of living at a time when the human knowledge was not so great and what was known on any one subject would fit in a rather thin textbook. Nobody today could master everything and innovate in every field as he did. And he made it all look so very simple, you can imagine that with the right patrons you too could have been a Leonardo Da Vinci. (Okay, maybe not.)
So perhaps what’s most interesting is the philosophy of his approach: a belief that nature’s are the best and most perfect inventions, with nothing redundant and nothing missing. For Da Vinci observation and experiment were the routes to unlocking secrets and inventions that mimic and work with forces of nature are destined to be most successful. I reckon that’s an approach that still holds true today.