Sunday, August 16, 2009

more ice cream now plz?

It being vilely hot and sticky in New York at the moment, the fancy takes me to show y'all just how little of a sheet of Torah is actually visible while I'm writing it. Well-written, polished, intellectual blog posts with nicely-edited pictures and everything are kind of hard when almost your entire brain is screaming "MORE ICE CREAM NOW PLZ," and this is moderately educational, anyway.

Here's a picture of my tabletop last Thursday.

Soferet desktop

A and B: plasticised cardboard off old calendars (or cereal boxes, whatever's around). This is a general protection against mucky fingers, dust (not that the work is ever lying around long enough to collect dust, oh no), stray ink blots, and the like.

C and D: kitchen paper. On hot hot hot days, the function of the kitchen paper is primarily as a sweat-soaker. Resting my forearms on kitchen paper means that when I raise my arm to dip the pen in the ink or write along the line or other such activities calling for a certain degree of mobility in the limbs, there isn't a sticky timelag while my arm peels itself away from A and B.

You will notice the inkstains on D, though; that's because even on sensible days when one can wear sleeves to the wrist one still needs pen-wipers. Long sleeves present a peril all of their own, namely FLUFF, which is why A and B are present whenever I can manage it; there's nothing quite like finishing a day's work in a purple sweater and realising that now you have to fetch your erasing sponge and remove the delicate purple bloom from your parchment, except *not* realising it and having your client ask why their sefer is patchily purple. I would guess. Not that that has ever happened to me. No indeed.

A thru D are attached to the parchment with paperclips. E, though, actually moves (that is to say, it is mobile. I move it, like a manual carriage return). I call E a finger guard; goodness knows what anyone else calls it, but its function is to keep the fingers off the parchment, so "finger guard" seems like a good name to me.

Parchment is temperamental, especially on hot days; it likes to cockle itself nostalgically and ripple gently across the desk. This is not especially helpful when you are trying to write on the darn stuff, so your left hand has the constant task of holding flat the square inch you're writing on. Without the trusty finger guard, that means you're continually writing on nice fresh fingerprints, and that's not so spiffy.

F is my tikkun page, wot I am copying off of. I have it as near to the working line as possible, because it's much easier to flick one's eyes a short way than raise one's whole head. You aren't allowed to write sans tikkun, as I've mentioned before.

G is the usual amount of visible Torah, although recently the days have been so hot and sticky that the ink takes forever to dry, so there are perhaps ten lines visible instead of the more usual four.

H. I'm very proud of H. It's that non-slip stuff that yachtie tablemats are made out of, that will sit quite happily on a table inclined at thirty degrees and not go anywhere. Ideal for people who work on tables inclined at thirty degrees, if you see what I mean. H is being a place marker, so that I don't go writing line 29 instead of line 35 or some similar foolishness.

I uses the same stuff to keep the inkwell and other tools from sliding off the desk. On I you can see tile; scalpel; pen; inkwell; giant blots. The tile and scalpel are for pen-sharpening (the tile serves as a chopping board). The giant blots are the natural consequence of giving Soferet Jen bottles of ink in handy easy-to-knock-over locations (you might describe me as ham-fisted, but we're too kosher for that aren't we); at J you can see how the wall has suffered similarly in the past.

Ice cream is totally relevant to writing Torah, anyway. They both come from cows.

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