ABSTRACT

The traditional scholarly appraisal of Leonardo's Giant Crossbow design dismisses it as a fanciful object, although often with praise of it as a quintessential example of his technical draftsmanship. The author offers evidence of Leonardo's likely intent that the drawing function as a reliable plan with which readers of a treatise on military engineering could consider a strategy, or an imaginative solution (a fantasia), for building the full-scale giant crossbow. At issue are the agreements between the illustrated dimensions and the written specifications, the proportional consistency of those dimensions and the possible use of Archimedean geometry to determine the primary dimensions.

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