University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Anthony J. and Frances A. Guzzetta Collection of Leonardo da Vinci, An Exhibition: 18 November 1993 - 31 March 1994

Volume XXXXIV · 1994
The Anthony J. and Frances A. Guzzetta Collection of Leonardo da Vinci: An Exhibition: 18 November 1993-31 March 1994





Collecting Vinciana by Dr. Anthony J. Guzzetta

The Life of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) by Bernard Barryte

Leonardo's Notebooks by Bernard Barryte


Bibliography by Bernard Barryte

Critical Studies

Monographs: Science

Monographs: Art

Support Materials


E l'amor di saper che m'ha si acceso / 
Che l'opera e retardato dal desio.

My love of knowledge so enflamed me
that my work was retarded by my desire.

--Francesco Petrarch



This issue of The University of Rochester Library Bulletin is an exhibition catalog for a notable collection devoted to history's first (and perhaps last) true "renaissance man." The Anthony J. and Frances A. Guzzetta Collection of Leonardo da Vinci began as the private collection of the late Anthony J. Guzzetta, M.D., who donated it to the Library in 1962. Howard S. Merritt introduced the new gift and discussed its scholarly context for Bulletin readers in a Spring 1963 article (volume XVIII). Dr. Guzzetta continued to add to the collection until his death in 1985. Dr. Louis R. Guzzetta has continued generous support for his father's collection, enabling it to grow to more than 1300 volumes.

Some 500 of those volumes are described in this issue's selective bibliography, with the symbol indicating the 69 items appearing in the current exhibition in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Our bibliographer and exhibition curator is Bernard Barryte, Chief Curator and Assistant Director at the Stanford University Museum of Art, and formerly Curator of European Art at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. Mr. Barryte's publications include "Leonardo's Ill-Matched Couple," in Achademia Leonardi Vinci:

Journal of Leonardo Studies & Bibliography of Vinciana (1990) and, with Victoria Steele, The Heritage of Leonardo da Vinci. . . Materials from the Elmer Belt Library of VincianaUCLA (Los Angeles, 1982). As background for this issue's extensive bibliography of the Guzzetta Collection, Mr. Barryte has also provided an overview of Leonardo's life and a detailed explanation of the fate of Leonardo's notebooks.

The editors would like to thank Bernard Barryte for his patience and thoroughness in this demanding task. We would also like to thank Rosemary Paprocki of the Reference Department for several rescues from microcomputer problems, and Peter Dzwonkoski of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections for proofreading help. Finally, our special thanks to Dr. Louis R. Guzzetta for making this exhibition catalog possible.





My first debt is historical, for this project depends upon the pioneering bibliographies of Ettore Verga, Kate Steinitz, and, more recently, Mauro Guerrini. Gratitude is due as well to the Bulletin editor, Margaret Becket, and especially to Peter Dzwonkoski and his talented staff in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections: Mary Huth, Karl Kabelac, Evelyn Walker, Laura Graham, and Molly Solazzo. I would like to thank my friends in the Art Library, especially Stephanie Frontz, for kindnesses well beyond their normal responsibilities, and also the wizards in the University's Computing Library and Resource Center for crucial assistance. This entire project could not have been completed without the encouragment of Dr. Louis Guzzetta. His generous support continues an admirable family tradition. Finally, I want to thank Ronda - for everything:

"Love reveals itself more in adversity than in prosperity, acting as does light which shines more where it finds the darkest spot" (Leonardo da Vinci, Ms. H).

--Bernard Barryte



Just as his Mona Lisa and Last Supper have become icons of Western culture, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) has himself come to symbolize our notion of "genius." That the name of this artist has become a commonplace in our lexicon of intellectual paragons reflects a reputation that has flourished during the past half millennium. His paintings, which have been famous since their creation, and his literary legacy, which has been the object of serious study for two centuries, have inspired at least 6192 books and articles according to the most recent bibliography published in 1990. 1 As a by-product of this scholarly attention, a self-described "omo sanza lettere" ("man without learning") has entered the popular imagination as a "universal man" who is emblematic of creativity and intellectual enterprise. Because of their beauty and variety, Leonardo's accomplishments continue to excite admiration and provoke scholarly investigation.

Our current understanding and appreciation of Leonardo results in part from his intellectual habits and in part from a complicated set of historical circumstances. His fame as a painter spread during his lifetime and in the sixteenth century he was recognized as the progenitor of what is today called the High Renaissance style. However, it was only at the dawn of a new age dominated by science that Leonardo's scientific activities began to fascinate scholars. As nineteenth-century scholars traced the empirical method to its Renaissance origins, the "re-discovered" Notebooks revealed that this pictorial virtuoso devoted extraordinary energy to the study of physical and natural phenomena. The beauty of the Notebooks supported Leonardo's reputation as an artist while the diversity and prescient quality of his observations established this man who took experience as his mistress as a pivotal figure in the formation of Western culture.

The questions that intrigued Leonardo were roused initially by his professional activities as a painter and engineer. However, Leonardo's organic view of the world and insatiable curiosity led him to investigate primary causes. As he traced the interrelationships of phenomena, the quest for knowledge evidently became an end in itself. He assiduously recorded his observations and speculations in a series of Notebooks in which he repeatedly affirms his intention to organize the notes and publish treatises devoted to such diverse subjects as painting, anatomy, and hydraulics. Inquiry was presumably more beguiling than systematization and Leonardo never fulfilled his ambition to publish his discoveries.

The Notebooks themselves were bequeathed to his disciple Francesco Melzi (1493-ca. 1570), who made an initial effort to organize the notes. 2 Melzi's collation of passages relating to painting is preserved today in the Vatican as Codex Urbinas Latinas 1270. Regrettably, Melzi's heirs began to disperse the collection with consequent losses over the centuries. Today only about 7000 sheets and fragments are known, representing only a fraction of Leonardo's literary production. Divided and subdivided by successive collectors, Leonardo's papers are scattered today among museums and libraries from St. Petersburg to Los Angeles.

The fate of the manuscripts inhibited most scholars from gaining a comprehensive view of Leonardo's work. In the nineteenth century, however, lithography made the publication of facsimiles possible and this technological advance enabled scholars to begin organizing and analyzing the surviving documents, a monumental task that continues unremittingly.

Today, study of Leonardo requires a library stocked with facsimiles and the commentary generated over the centuries. Dr. Anthony J. and Frances A. Guzzetta provided the University of Rochester Library with these essential scholarly tools. 3 In 1962, the Guzzettas donated their substantial collection of Vinciana with its core of thirty-four editions of Leonardo's Treatise on Painting. Their generosity has been matched by their son, Dr. Louis Guzzetta, who purchased for the collection the magnificent recent edition of Leonardo's anatomical studies (No. 17) and also provided an endowment that has enabled the Guzzetta Collection to grow from 700 to over 1300 volumes.

In addition to celebrating the munificence of the donors, this catalogue and the accompanying exhibition highlight the treasures of this valuable resource while surveying the scope and evolution of Leonardo studies.


--Bernard Barryte
Rochester, 1993

  1. Mauro Guerrini, Bibliotheca Leonardiana 1493 -1989, 3 vols. (Milan: Bibliografica, 1990).
  2. In addition to the Notebooks, Melzi inherited Leonardo's drawings and cartoons. It has been suggested recently that the paintings left in the master's studio passed to Gian Ciacomo Capriotti di Orena, called Salai (ca. 1480-1524), who had been Leonardo's assistant since 1490 (Janice Shell and Grazioso Sironi, "Salai and Leonardo's Legacy," Burlington Magazine 133 [February, 1991], pp. 95-108).
  3. Howard S. Merritt, "The Anthony J. and Frances A. Guzzetta Collection of Vinciana," The University of Rochester Library Bulletin 18 (Spring, 1963), pp. 35-40.


Collecting Vinciana*

I became interested in collecting books on Leonardo da Vinci after reading the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinciby [Edward] MacCurdy several years ago. The notebooks read almost like an encyclopedia, for their subject matter includes art, medicine, mathematics, engineering, naval warfare, sculpture, musiç architecture, philosophy, astronomy, botany, and geology. Throughout his notes and illustrations, Leonardo is in fact an outstanding teacher and instructor. He describes in detail every step of his experiments by using drawings. He tells his students what to do, as well as what to avoid. He describes the results as he observes them.

Among the early books bought were the Manuscritti e i Designi di Leonardo da Vinci published by the Commissione Vinciana in Rome. I soon discovered that locating books long out of print and frequently in limited editions was no easy matter. Now and then I discover a book with the autograph of the author, which makes the book more interesting. Italy - especially Milan, Rome, and Florence - was the fertile spot for books. Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Paris, and London have all contributed their share of surprises. Los Angeles. . . contributed a copy of the Trattato della Pittura . . . published in 1651 in Paris. This was the first book printed from Leonardo's writings. The copy is in very good condition. . . . My greatest thrill was the purchase in Milan of a copy of theCodice Atlantico. My copy is number 189 of 280 copies.

Leonardo had an analytical mind. He was a keen observer of every phenomenon. He included minute details, descriptions and sketches in his notebooks. His method. . . is similar to our modern research. The only reason the world did not discover his contributions many centuries earlier is that his notebooks were not available, and [because of] the difficulty of decoding them since they were written with the left hand, backwards. . . requiring the aid of a mirror. . . . [Today] he truly has been recognized as the greatest genius of the Renaissance - if not of the world.

A. J. Guzzetta, M.D.

*Adapted from 'Collecting Leonardo da Vinci Books," Museum Service. Bulletin of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, 26 (March, 1953), pp. 38-39.


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