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Having slept on it, I had come to the same conclusion as Andrew - its all about lighting.  You cant hang a candle directly over a writing page to illuminate it, its just too dangerous for dripped wax or fire of the precious book - you have to have it off the side over your shoulder, and if you are then writing on a flat surface, your hand and arm puts where you're writing into shadow.  Yea for electricity! 
Helen



--- On Sat, 3/4/10, Andrew J. Jacob <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> From: Andrew J. Jacob <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [OLD-IRISH-L] the scribe's posture
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Received: Saturday, 3 April, 2010, 4:50 AM
> 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. 
> 
> Just conjecture.
> 
> Andrew Jacob 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> ________________________________
> 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.
> 
> Michele
> 
> 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 ...
> > Helen
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > --- 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!!
> >> Pamela
> >>
> >> On 2 April 2010 12:49, Dennis King <[log in to unmask]>
> >> wrote:
> >>
> >>> http://nimill.blogspot.com/2010/04/staidiuir-scriobhai.html
> >>>
> >>> 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
> >>>
> >>> Dennis
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> -- 
> >> 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
> >>
> > 
> > 
> >      
> > 
> 
> 
> 
> 
>