This may sound an absurd question, but I have a reason for asking. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote and drew with his left hand, and hence was adept at writing in reverse. Movable type is set backwards, and while I have yet to find a reputable source, I’ve heard that many typesetters were left-handed for that very reason.

I doubt there would be a documented source saying remaking on Gutenberg's handedness, but if any of his handwriting exists, his handedness could be determined based off that.

  • 1
    Leonardo was undoubtedly left-handed but the reason he wrote in reverse is because he was initially forced to write with his right hand. Try writing text with both hands simultaneously. Whatever your handedness you'll find having your non-dominant hand write mirror images easy (albeit with much less control over letter formation). Sep 19 '17 at 15:40
  • Thank you for the explanation @TheMathemagician, that explains why I'd heard that about left-handed typesetters pretty well.
    – Zenon
    Sep 19 '17 at 19:18

It doesn't appear that there's any report about Gutenberg not being right-handed.

I tried several sites reporting famous left-handers, and couldn't find Gutenberg on anyone's list (not even Steve Gutenberg). The most extensive seems to be kept by the University of Indiana (although I don't know how well-curated it is. It appears to take public submissions, which is scary).

As one of this site's (many) resident left-handers, I feel compelled to make a few points here:

  1. A handwriting sample could show left-handedness, but it can't prove right-handedness. For many of us, our writing just looks like really sloppy right-handed writing. This goes particularly for people of the late middle ages, when left-handedness was often suppressed.
  2. I can't write in reverse. My wife is also left-handed, and if she can do that its a skill she's kept impressively well-hidden for the last 30+ years. Da Vinci's ability to write reverse doesn't show anything special about left-handers, but rather that Da Vinci was an extraordinary genius.
  3. Something doesn't need to have been created by left-handers to end up left-biased. The most famous example is the QWERTY keyboard layout, which ended up left-biased as a side effect of being designed to prevent jams in rotating arm-style typewriters.
  • 2
    I'd argue the keyboard bias extends to modern PC gaming. I understand many professional sport gamers mouse on the left despite being right-handed. Even if you aren't a pro, setting up this way allows you to get easier access to the arrow keys and numeric keypad, rather than having to use WASD and spring for an expensive gamepad
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 18 '17 at 18:51
  • Thanks for the answer! I hadn't thought to look up lists of left-handers. It makes sense that there wouldn't be any real way for history to tell, especially seeing as he lived so long ago. @TheMathemagician's comment on my question explains the whole reverse writing thing quite well. Between the comment and your answer, I've gained a much better understanding of the topic. Thanks again!
    – Zenon
    Sep 19 '17 at 19:18

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