What Did They Do Before Bookstores?
Leonardo da Vinci's early educational resources were few and far between. He certainly didn't walk to the nearest Borders to pick up new books! Rather, most of his knowledge came from experience. As previously discussed, he spent plenty of time with his Uncle Francesco as a youngster. Being a farmer, Francesco taught Leonardo much about nature. Leonardo's early interest in sketching probably began at this time.
Leonardo was well aware of the middle-class discriminatory norm that prevented illegitimate children like him from attending a university. Because of these restrictions, he probably paid much more attention to his Uncle Francesco's teachings than he would have otherwise.
Even without the aid of modern mnemonic devices, Leonardo seemed to have a phenomenal memory. In his notebooks, he told a story he remembered from infancy. Apparently, a hawk-like bird called a kite landed on him, waving its tail feathers in his face. Though he couldn't have been more than a few months old when this event took place, Leonardo claimed to remember it clearly—he at least remembered it well enough to write about. This incident supposedly led to his later interest in flight.
While textbooks and teachers were scarce, Leonardo still loved to read. Though his formal schooling probably didn't go past a primary grade, hetook advantage of friends’ and relatives’ libraries. After moving in with his grandfather, he was probably home-schooled in math, science, reading, and writing. Amazingly, he learned physics and anatomy more or less on his own.
Leonardo's grandfather kept diaries and records, and fortunately for us, Leonardo adopted this habit as an adult. Historically, reading and research have always been important to artists; genius rarely appears out of thin air. Some of history's greatest figures spent years reading, thinking, and developing their ideas before coming up with their own creations. One of the best examples may be Jules Verne, the writer who produced Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. An avid reader as a child, he favored (not surprisingly) writings about travel and adventure. Similarly, Leonardo attached himself to subjects in his particular areas of interest, including advanced physical sciences and mathematics.