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I think Leonardo was a genius with a normal sense of humor and desire to show off just for kicks.
He may have had some other reason for writing as he did, such as developing dexterity, but I doubt seriously that anyone could be fooled by backward writing for more than a minute, as the OP states.
If all this was any help. PS, I typed this all up on an upside-down keyboard. Try it sometime, its freakin' hard.
For over five hundred years, scholars have explained Leonardo's mirror writing as writing which could only be read in a mirror because he wanted to keep what he wrote secret.
As an inventor who understands how some inventors think, I never believed that Leonardo's writing had anything to do with secrets or mystery writing. He was such a creative, innovative person, he wrote the way he did because it was easier and possibly less "messy". Leonardo was left handed. If you have ever watched a left handed person write you will see that in order to be able to read what they have written, as they write it, they "curl" their hand around what they have written. This allows them to see what they are writing as well as reduce the tendency to cover the newly written material with the side of the hand. If the writing was being done with a pen or quill dipped in ink, the left handed writer would tend to "drag" the outside part of the hand over what was just written. The right handed writer doesn't have this problem because the hand moves away from what is being written. There is no blocking the view of the writing and no dragging the hand across the wet ink.
So, I believe Leonardo simply devised the backward writing because it worked for him. Truly a practical and ingenious way to write his thoughts quickly and without mess. And obviously, he had no problem reading what he had written. That's it. No big secret and deep dark mystery. Just a good example of how Leonardo was someone who could "think outside the box". By the way, he didn't always write backwards. There are examples of his writing in the "normal" way. And he sometimes also used a short hand system he devised.
Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Some believe that because Leonardo was left handed that he devised the mirror writing so that he would be less likely to smear the ink with his hand as he wrote.
[edit on 2008/5/8 by GradyPhilpott]
I have always considered something important when looking at 'genius' like Leonardo's - was he truly a Genius, or just someone who chased his dreams?
If only they knew...