To the Devatdar of Syria


This is an interesting page from Leonardo's Notebooks. It starts out as a letter to "the Devatdar of Sýria Lieutenant of the Sacred Sultan of Babylon" and then goes on to the chapter order for a book that was never written. It comes across as a brain storming session for both a letter to someone and an outline for a section in a book he intended to write. It's a cross between fiction and geography, or whatever it is he imagined while visiting Armenia. Did he really go there?

TO THE DEVATDAR OF SYRIA, LIEUTENANT OF THE SACRED SULTAN OF BABYLON [Cairo]:

The recent disaster in our northern parts which I am certain will terrify not you alone but the whole world, which shall be related to you in due order, showing first the effect and then the cause. [....]1 Finding myself in this part of Armenia to carry into effect with due love and care the task for which you sent me; and to make a beginning in a place which seemed to me to be most to our purpose, I entered into the city Calendrafy, near to our frontiers. This city is situated at the base of that part of the Taurus mountains which is divided from the Euphrates and looks towards the peaks of the great Mount Taurus to the west. These peaks are of such a height that they seem to touch the sky, and in all the world there is no part of the earth, higher than its summit, and the rays of the sun always fall upon it on its East side, four hours before day-time, and being of the whitest stone it shines resplendently and fulfils the function to these Armenians which a bright moon-light would in the midst of the darkness; and by its great height it outreaches the utmost level of the clouds by a space of four miles in a straight line. This peak is seen in many places towards the West, illuminated by the sun after its setting the third part of the night. This it is, which with you we formerly in calm weather had supposed to be a comet, appears to us in the darkness of night, to change its form, being sometimes divided in two or three parts, and sometimes long and sometimes short. And this is caused by the clouds on the horizon of the sky which interpose between part of this mountain and the sun, and by cutting off some of the solar rays the light on the mountain is intercepted by various intervals of clouds, and therefore varies in the form of its brightness.

THE DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK:

• The praise and confession of the faith.
• The sudden inundation, to its end.
• The destruction of the city.
• The death of the people and their despair.
• The preacher's search, his release and benevolence.
• Description of the cause of this fall of the mountain.
• The mischief it did.
• Fall of snow.
• The finding of the prophet.
• His prophesy.
• The inundation of the lower portion of Eastern Armenia, the draining of which was effected by the cutting through the Taurus Mountains.
• How the new prophet showed that this destruction would happen as he had foretold.
• Description of the Taurus Mountains and the river Euphrates.
• Why the mountain shines at the top, from half to a third of the night, and looks like a comet to the inhabitants of the West after the sunset, and before day to those of the East.
• Why this comet appears of variable forms, so that it is now round and now long, and now again
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