People always call me strange when they see me writing English in the opposite direction, using mirrored letters. This practice, however, has been known since the 15th century – or even before. Who else could give birth to this incredible idea, if not the famous Italian polymath, Leondardo Da Vinci. He was ambidextrous, which means that he was able to use both of his hands equally in order to write, paint, play an instrument etc. Da Vinci’s mirror writing was first discovered when his personal records were found: all of his texts, except the ones he intended to be read by others, were written using a unique shorthand. We could confidently state that his graphemes were visibly easier to write than the ones we use today, provided that we can ignore their mirrored direction.
The real purpose of Leonardo Da Vinci’s mirror writing remains unknown, although several theories have been put forward throughout the centuries. Some believe that, since many of his ideas disagreed with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, he wanted to hide them from the public in order to save his head. Others say that he may have been concerned that his contemporaries (by this I refer to other well-known polymaths whom he saw as his ‘rivals’) would steal his ideas, and therefore made it harder for them to access the information from his private notes.
But there is a third possible reason, the reason which encouraged me to learn Da Vinci’s mirrored shorthand and make it a part of my everyday life. Left-handed people, including myself, often find it difficult to write by hand, regardless of whether we use a pen or a pencil. This is because the ink or graphite we put down on the paper smears when our hand moves across it. Furthermore, pushing our hands (and the equipment) forward on the paper does not normally produce a fluent – or at least perfectly legible – handwriting. The first time I experienced the opposite was when I began to copy longer texts in Modern Hebrew, starting from the right side of the paper and moving towards the left. At the end, my writing was not at all smudged, my hand was clean and I wasn’t tired of forcefully “attacking” the paper for a long period. The decision was made and I soon learnt to take my notes using the technique of mirror writing.
Research has proven that left-handed people have a better ability at mirroring letters, due to the way in which their brain functions. For me, writing from right to left at a quick pace does not cause any problems, but I often have to think twice about the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ before putting them on paper. However, this may just be the influence of over ten years of writing in the habitual direction. To show you how I use the technique, I’ve copied a section of the related Wikipedia article, in my own version of mirror writing.