Lapsed Vigilance – Sword vs Pen 2016-10-23T22:20:18+00:00

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

These two quotes — apocryphally attributed to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, respectively — are the basis of this piece. Despite our wanting to be touched by the better angels of our nature, the fact remains that as mighty as words may be, they do not make the sword powerless. Indeed, the first quote implies that the sword is still mighty.

History has shown that freedoms are always in danger from both within and without unless you are willing to risk all to protect them. Sometimes that price is dear, indeed. Conversely, dangerous subversion can sometimes be stopped before it foments by the well-timed blade. This, plus the extremely polarized political climate that emerged in the last part of the 20th and into the 21st centuries, served as my inspiration.

The foundation of this piece is the United States’ Declaration of Independence. It is realized at approximately the actual size of the original document. Like the original, it is hand engrossed. I spent many, many months learning how to write in a similar hand(s) as the original, using Mitchell and Speedball nibs for the header and gothic text, and Gillott 303 nibs for the primary text. After much experimentation, I found a high-quality liquid sumi ink to be the most suitable.

The text is not an exact representation. It has a few mistakes (in addition to the mistakes in the original that I included). Exactness wasn’t the goal, just recognizability. Care was taken to ensure that the line starts and ends matched the original. All-in-all, it came out much closer than I started out expecting. You can see that the fatal blow came with only about half-a-line (16 words) left to go — and ironically interrupting at the word, “protection”.

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