Another Angle on Reading and Writing

There are two major categories of books: those we place on a table for serious study, and those we read while leaning back in a chair, in an easy chair, or while travelling by train. The books we study should rest at a slant in front of us. Few, however, will go to such length. To bend over a book is just as unhealthy as the usual writing position enforced by a flat table. The scribe of the middle ages used a desk; we hardly dare call it that any more because the slope was so steep (up to 65Β°). The parchment was held in place by a string across it and could be pushed upward little by little. The active line, always horizontal was the height-of-eye, and the scribe sat perfectly upright. Even at the turn of the century, clergymen and government officials used to do their writing standing up behind a small desk: a healthy and reasonable position for writing and reading that has, alas, become rare.

β€”Jan Tschichold, The Form of the Book

via moleskinerie

A scribe respecting his spine

Bonus quote:

My ideal office wouldn’t have a chair. You would do two things there: stand up or lie down. These are the body’s most natural positions.

Levenger Bookstandβ€”Niels Diffrient

I don’t know what physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists would do for a living if we all weren’t slouched in our chairs and hunched over our square, flat, dust-collecting desks. What are vertical creatures doing working on the horizontal? Revolt, I say! Stand up and say no to the horizontal and yes to the diagonal!


5 comments on “Another Angle on Reading and Writing

  1. Talmida says:

    hmmm….I quite enjoy reading on an angle, but it wouldn't work for writing — a ball point probably wouldn't write smoothly, would it?

  2. Sylvia says:

    It depends on how you hold your pen. If you rest the pen in the crook between your thumb and index finger, then you might have a problem at the higher angles. But if you hold it more-or-less perpendicular to your arm, like a calligrapher, then I think the ink would flow just fine, plus you have more control. And if it still doesn't work, then you have an excuse to get into fountain pens. πŸ˜‰

  3. Stefanie says:

    I don't know about the writing part, but I do like having my book propped up while I read. That might explain why I like to read in bed with the book on my knees so much. Perhaps I can figure out a way to use your bit of information to do more reading in bed πŸ™‚

  4. Sylvia says:

    I've been trying to write on a slant using an empty binder and it works great. It really does seem less fatiguing (and believe me, I know fatigue!). It also aligns the hand with the forearm which makes whole-arm writing smoother and freer. I like!

  5. Cipriano says:

    The more important, albeit more “general” question I am pondering here is this…
    What would chairs look like if our knees bent the other way?

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