When I set myself to the task of writing a historical introductory chapter to my second book,
, in the early 1990s, I had learned about Leonardo’s Robot Knight from Carlo Pedretti’s magnificent
I had seen the book in a book store, but it was in Italian and very expensive. Later I found a copy of it used and in English. After digesting it I leapt at the opportunity to delve into Leonardo’s Robot Knight, which was described near the end of the book. Taking a leap of faith that enough material had survived to reconstruct the robot, I made my way to the University of Minnesota’s Rare Books Collection on the top floor of Wilson Library. There, an elderly librarian, tasked with wheeling up from the stacks the twelve elephant folios of the Codex Atlanticus, nearly collapsed his cart beneath the volumes, which weighed several hundred pounds. From this awkward beginning I traced the faint fragments one by one, perhaps even discovering an overlapping figure that had been overlooked by Pedretti, and was able to make a road map of the design and publish the fragments. My book,
, which contained the Leonardo material, was well underway but not yet published by the winter of 1994.