On depicting a battle:
"The air must be full of arrows in every direction." (There follows several pages more of instructions, including bits like, "There must not be a level spot that is not trampled with gore.") (p. 26-28)
And his bits on anatomy are famous enough without me. The distance between the corner of your eye and your ear is the same as the height of your ear. Now you know.
But then, on the less specific side, there's this: "Of grotesque faces I need say nothing, because they are kept in mind without difficulty." (p. 131) So da Vinci's not so different after all, is he? His specificity varies in inverse proportion to his subject's attractiveness. I like boobs.
Unfortunately, "Women must be represented in modest attitude, their legs close together, their arms closely folded, their heads inclined and somewhat on one side" (p. 63), which is not at all what I heard on the internet.
Some of it's amazingly perceptive, and some of it's completely wrong, and some I don't understand at all, but the effect of reading his diary is weird and powerful; more than, say, reading an autobiography tends to be. While he probably knew his journals would be read (he actually addresses "Reader" off and on), he was still writing mainly for himself, so there's a directness.
What comes across most is his curiosity. He'll jot down some weird paragraph about shadows or something, and you understand that this is what he must have done all day today: measure shadows and build shapes and math formulas out of them, because he wanted to know how they work. True, his conclusion was that they send out "dark rays" that bounce into "reflex streams" or something, which I think might be gibberish, but still. What did you do today? I pretty much just thought about boobs.read more