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Leonardo Mystery

In response to:

Leonardo's Notebooks from the December 12, 1974 issue

To the Editors:

I have just read the review of the recently published volumes entitled “Leonardo’s Notebooks,” published by Sir Kenneth Clark in The New York Review of Books (December 12). While I am ready to submit to Sir Kenneth’s expert judgment on the quality and significance of the publication, I am dismayed to notice that he treats the history of the discovery of the manuscripts in a manner that is likely to mislead your readers. Since he does refer to the investigation of the matter conducted by Professors Theodore Beardsley, Carlo Pedretti and myself for the Renaissance Society of America, I am surprised that he ignores the brief report on our findings which we published in Renaissance Quarterly (24,3,1971,430-431). It is this report to which Ladislao Reti refers in the introduction to the Leonardo volumes and on which he bases his account. Our committee has evidence that the reports published in newspapers and magazines in 1967 (not in 1965) were inaccurate; that the mss. were found during the winter of 1964-65 by D. Ramon Paz, one of the librarians, and were displayed without a label in an exhibition in April and May, 1965; and that the librarians subsequently did contact several Leonardo scholars of which Reti was one.

Paul Oskar Kristeller

Columbia University

New York City

Kenneth Clark replies:

Dr. Kristeller’s letter does not dispose of the major question why, when the manuscript was “discovered,” Dr. Raymond Paz did not have it labeled and catalogued, or inform other Leonardo scholars. In Dr. Kristeller’s letter he says that the librarian subsequently did contact other Leonardo scholars, but this is not mentioned in the brief report in the Renaissance Quarterly, with which of course I am perfectly familiar. He does not say in his letter whether the Spanish librarian’s approach to the Leonardo scholars was made before or after the book was mistakenly issued to an American scholar, nor does Dr. Kristeller give any explanation of why the committee that investigated the circumstances of the discovery decided that the evidence should be put in a sealed envelope and not opened for fifty years.

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