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OLD-IRISH-L  January 2005

OLD-IRISH-L January 2005

Subject:

Re: Oghamchraobh

From:

Searles O'Dubhain <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 7 Jan 2005 16:52:55 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (66 lines)

On Fri, 7 Jan 2005 09:26:33 +0100, David Stifter
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>
>Let's do some more calculations. Assuming it takes about 10 sec. to
>incise one letter (I did it once and needed far longer per letter,
>but someone with experience would do it faster than I did then),

On wood with a sharp knife it would take about 3 seconds maximum to form a
score. One is only making two cuts.

>it
>would take 500.000 sec. to write the 8.000 words, i.e. 8333,3...min =
>ca. 140 h pure working time. If we allow for a continuous working
>time of 8h per day, it would take 17,5 days, i.e. 2 1/2 weeks of
>uninterrupted work to create a text of that sort. A stave of 3x3x200
>cm would have a weight of 1,26 kg, assuming a specific weight of 0,7
>for wood (it could be a bit more or less). This gives 63 kgs for a
>bundle of 50 staves.
>

At an average of 3 seconds per score X 3 scores per character X 5
characters per word X 8000 words, it would take 360,000 seconds to
inscribe. This is 6000 minutes or about 100 hours (about two and a half
weeks of 8 hour shifts). That's not fast by today's standards but I
suspect it was OK back then (especially for something important and if one
had many students to teach). Students most likely did the job for the
Ollaman.

As to weight, with four edges on each stave (and a nominally 6 foot
stave), there would be room for 10 scores per inch X 12 inches per foot X
5 feet of usable area = 600 scores per edge x 4 edges per stave = 2400
scores per stave (with four feet of unused space per stave for growth and
variation and possible decorative markings). These divided by the 3 scores
per character and the 5 characters per word means that about 167 complete
words could be placed on a single stave.  This stave alone needs to be no
more than 3/4 of an inch on a side. It would take about 30 staves to make
up the 8000-word composition. To gain an idea of what these staves would
have weighed, one need only consider a modern 2 x 4 used in buildings.
Eight staves like I'm discussing could easily be made from such a 2 x 4.
This means that the entire composition would have weighed less than 4 such
2 x 4's.  This is certainly a greater weight than a modern book but isnít
an impossible burden.

Historically, the transactions of accounting houses and banking houses
were kept on such staves up until about 150 years ago. Evidently, a system
of wooden inscribed staves or sticks was not considered unfeasible in the
relatively recent past for a large number of transactions. The tales say
that libraries contained such staves in ancient Ireland. One supposes they
were used for memory storage and refreshment and perhaps not for
transporting to performances. I do think that perhaps a shorthand notation
or a series of memory prompts were used by the Filidh to augment their
recitals. Episodes in tales could have been prompted by first lines only,
as the poems and rhetorics are known to have been referenced. The body of
the tale could have been fleshed out by standard embellishments and
descriptions for a memorized list of features and characteristics (as the
Ogham lists are known to represent). I'm assuming that the 150 Ogham that
were included in a File's study were such lists and cross-references. Some
of these are more poetic than others as the briatharogam demonstrate.

All in all, the use of Ogham on wood would have been more cumbersome than
modern methods but seems to compare favorably with other practices that
also involved wood.

Searles O'Dubhain

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