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You all know him for the Gioconda and the Last Supper. If you are a soldier, you may know that today's war machinery is based on his artillery inventions. While if you are a pilot, you possibly know that he sketched the first parachute in history. Yes, I'm talking about Leonardo Da Vinci, and what many of you most likely don't know is that he is also guilty of inventing one of your post-graduate life's biggest pains in the ass: the cover letter.

More than 5 centuries ago, in 1482, Da Vinci wrote  a letter  to the Duke of Milan describing his many talents and enumerating his infinite inventions. It is considered by many historians the first CV in History, even if from today's perspective, it looks more like a cover letter.

Most Illustrous Lord,

Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

leonardo
Photo: www.wikipedia.org
The one who is to blame: Leonardo Da Vinci came up with the idea for cover letters in the 15th century.

Ironically enough, some say that feeling insecure about his writing skills, Leonardo delegated the task of formulating his cover letter to a 'cultivated man'. Not so different from today's way of going about things, right?

According to these same historians (check this cool  infographic ), Da Vinci's letter evolved when a Lord in England offered a handwritten letter of introduction to his acquaintances and called it his résumé. So to sum up, that strange type of writing that is today known as a cover letter was firstly invented by an Italian and named by an Englishman who used a French word. That is, cover letters are quintessentially European. And as complex as any other European institution.

The complexity is today perpetuated by the lack of consensus on how a cover letter should be written. Some say, "keep it classic"; others say, "be creative"! Some say, "include a picture"; others say "never do that"! I say... Let's have a look at some examples.

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