A wonderful David Broder op-ed piece in today’s Post tells of the Declaration of Independence – not the later one that was painstakingly calligraphed and now resides in the National Archive, but the typeset version that preceded it by a month. It was the printed version that was sent across the country announcing what Congress had done, and it was that version which stirred the population:
The role of a printer and of the press in the creation of the nation is more than a matter of pride for my much-maligned business. Starr is eloquent in explaining why the printed version is even now of great significance.
“Today,” he writes, “our relationship to the Declaration depends on the medium in which we view it. Where calligraphy promotes passive looking, typography invites active reading. Where calligraphy consigns the text to history, typography connects it to the present. Where calligraphy falsely exaggerates our difference from the Founders, typography accurately demonstrates our similarity to them. Where calligraphy discourages involvement and ownership, typography encourages engagement and participation.
“Through typography the text remains ubiquitous, readily available to every American. We can find it in our homes in encyclopedias and almanacs. It is in every library and bookstore. And, of course, it can be printed endlessly from the Web.”
Take some time this weekend to read this remarkable document. Ask yourself if we are still fulfilling its promise and its charge, to live — all of us — in liberty.
Note: The inscribed Declaration of Independence usually on display at the National Archives is nearing the end of it’s restoration. On September 17, just in time for Constitution Day, the Charters of Freedom: the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, will be returned to the display hall in newly constructed preservation cases. The teacher’s magazine I design and produce, Social Education, will feature a fascinating article in September on the Charters of Freedom and their journeys to their final home in the National Archives.