Leonardo: Right to Left

Leonardo wrote in Italian using a special kind of shorthand that he invented himself. People who study his notebooks have long been puzzled by something else, however. He usually used "mirror writing", starting at the right side of the page and moving to the left. Only when he was writing something intended for other people did he write in the normal direction.

Here is a sample of Leonardo's writing as it appears in his drawings.

This is how it would look reversed by a mirror.

Try it yourself!

People who were contemporaries of Leonardo left records that they saw him write and paint left handed. He also made sketches showing his own left hand at work. Being a lefty was highly unusual in Leonardo's time. Because people were superstitious, children who naturally started using their left hands to write and draw were forced to use their right hands.

No one knows the true reason Leonardo used mirror writing, though several possibilities have been suggested:


Why do you think Leonardo wrote in reverse?

Try the Classroom Activity: Leonardo Right to Left to collect evidence and form your own conclusion.

Inventor's WorkshopExploring Leonardo HomepageLeonardo's Perspective
Leonardo: Right to LeftWhat? Where? When?Additional Resources


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