It might be a long shot but I'd also consider the lack of overhead lighting sources. If you are working by candlelight do you really want the page flat on a horizontal surface? You'd have less shadows (from your hand if nothing else) if you had it upright, with the candle to your left if you are right-handed and vice versa.
From: Michele Cheung <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Fri, April 2, 2010 12:19:57 PM
Subject: Re: [OLD-IRISH-L] the scribe's posture
Those little fancy travelling lap-desk boxes often had a sloped top as
well. And sometimes both had a ridge to keep your pen or pencil from
rolling off the bottom. But I'd guess the boxes and desks were designed
with the idea that a slope was the optimal writing surface.
Helen McKay wrote:
> ... Am I the only one old enough to remember our wooden school desks built with a sloping top like that!?! they did seem to go out of fashion once the ink well at the top was no longer needed, with the invention of the biro, so I wonder if it was a case of keeping any splled ink from pooling ...
> --- On Fri, 2/4/10, Pamela O'Neill <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> From: Pamela O'Neill <[log in to unmask]>
>> Subject: Re: [OLD-IRISH-L] the scribe's posture
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Received: Friday, 2 April, 2010, 1:44 PM
>> Thanks, Dennis - gorgeous! I
>> understand that draftsmen and architectural
>> drawing people still (or at least did until computers took
>> over) use such
>> slanted work surfaces - the tech drawing room at my high
>> school (into which
>> only boys were allowed!) had high sloping desks. As
>> one who has suffered
>> with bad back pain, I can vouch for their ergonomic
>> advantages. However,
>> one would hope that the postures of the scribes in some of
>> these images are
>> not quite accurate - I hurt just looking at them!!
>> On 2 April 2010 12:49, Dennis King <[log in to unmask]>
>>> Six images of the medieval scribe at work.
>>> Was the slanted desk top ergonomic? Did it
>> strain his wrists? Was it an
>>> artistic convention to portray it that way?
>>> Irish scribes routinely complained in marginalia of
>> cold, bad light, poor
>>> ink, inferior vellum, and generally of their bouts of
>> ill health. Off hand,
>>> though, I know of just one scribe who complained about
>> a muscle cramp, but
>>> it may be telling:
>>> "Na tabrad aon da leigfe so guth [ar] in leitir sin,
>> oir do crap in cusli
>>> agam le imarcad mogsaine."
>>> "No one who reads this should blame the lettering, for
>> my wrist / forearm
>>> has cramped from too much toil."
>>> Annals of Loch Cé, ii. 328
>> Dr Pamela O'Neill, FSA Scot
>> Honorary Associate, School of Letters Art and Media,
>> University of Sydney
>> Honorary Fellow, School of Historical Studies, University
>> of Melbourne