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Saturday, May 3, 2014

da Vinci - The Paper and the Ink - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Ever since The Da Vinci Code was published, the already large amount of material on or by Leonardo da Vinci seems to have exploded.
Hidden in plain sight in all his notebooks filled with sketches and ideas are his FABLES!  Even as I work on this, my husband commented, "I didn't know da Vinci wrote fables!"
Several authors have translated them and their work is not Public Domain, but the ideas of that wonderful old genius are freely available to the ages.  Some of his fables are even just considered Italian folklore.  (In case you're wondering, they've also been verified as originating with him, as opposed to his re-stating earlier fables.)
Bibliomaniac that I am, I came across one of these translations and knew they deserve a place here.  The interpretation and transcription by Bruno Nardini opens with the fable of "The Paper and the Ink."  Here's my own brief retelling of da Vinci's fable.

There once was a page of paper sitting on a desk along with other sheets of paper.  Suddenly a pen wrote all over it.  (In those days the pen first had to dip in ink.)
The paper was outraged, "How dare you write all over me!  Look at what a mess you made of me!"
"Calm down," said the pen.  "I merely put words on you, turning you from a blank sheet of paper into a message.  Now you hold the thoughts of a person, making you important because you save those thoughts."
Not long after, someone tidied up the room with the desk, burning the many sheets of paper.  Just as it was about to be thrown in the fire, the paper with the words, however, was kept because its message might be important.

Words!  How important they are to storytellers and thinkers and our audience.

Here are some other recent books of da Vinci's fables:
  • Edgar Herbert Brice-Smythe - Leonardo's Fables and Jests
  • Sidney Colvin and Jean Paul Richter - Fables and Other Writings (Annotated Edition) -- Richter's 1880 edition is listed below in the online resources
  • Bruno Nardini -  Fables of Leonardo da Vinci --where I first discovered da Vinci's fables
  • Renaissance Fables: Aesopic Prose (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies)
  • Ed Tasca - The Fables of Leonardo da Vinci

If you want some online introduction to the fables, try:
  • Facebook has a page announcing the book, Tales of Leonardo Da Vinci mentioning all manner of illustration, but not the writing.  I love, however, where it says "Improve your brain with the tales of Leonardo Da Vinci! His fables convey evergreen, eternal truths, infect the modern reader and extend a better understanding of human relationships and society."
  • From Old Books.org -- This is the Humorous Writings section in Jean Paul Richter's Fables and Other Writings mentioned above.  You might also check out the home page of this interestingly quirky Canadian site by fellow bibliomaniac, Liam Quin.  It includes over 3400 free images and a few books for sale
  • Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks (the full text translated by Edward M. C. Curdy -- for just the fables go to Book IV starting on p. 252 near the end)
  • Recently I also discussed story "bones" and, in this Wikisource article  about The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, the Humorous Writings are in that format
  • There's even a Teacher's Guide for the fable of "The Ant and the Grain of Wheat", an excellent fable about the importance of delaying gratification to get an even better result
  • Youthwork Practice looks at the cautionary fable of "The Hungry Fox."  The Charles Haddon Spurgeon article there applies it to 1 Peter 5:8, but most of the questions could easily be applied to judging the safety of a situation or people.

I'm sure this doesn't exhaust the subject of Leonardo's fables.  I found a great cartoon taking the famous da Vinci drawing

and turning it into "Leonardo Dude Vinci." Part of The Dudeism Principle with many items for sale at
The Dudeism Printfection Store
. . .  after a look at the old boy's humor, I think it would make him smile.
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This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.   
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