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Ergonomics, 16th century style

Present-day computer operators suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a severe hand injury often requiring surgery, have sometimes been advised to use a soft rubber wrist pad when working on a keyboard for lengthy periods of time. The use of such a hand support when writing is something not newly known.

An Irish bard, writing about the year 1500, almost 500 years ago, numbered a hand cushion as one of the consolations of life, in the following lines:

Come thou of the fair smooth pages stitched together...
Bring with thee, as thou comest, my pen-case, ready, clean, brilliant,
filled with sharp dart-like pens, limber-tipped, firm, newly trimmed.
Bring likewise paper and cushion under my hand, whence writing
is to percolate upon the smooth slope of the leaf, a fine script,
jet-black, uniform.

For this translation of the unnamed poet's words we are once more indebted to Osborn Bergin, Professor of Early and Medieval Irish, University College, Dublin.


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