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Jun 02nd
Home Sections A Quill of Romance, History and Revolution: The Story of the Pen and Writing
A Quill of Romance, History and Revolution: The Story of the Pen and Writing PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 11 May 2008 09:21

Man’s propensity to make improvements through innovations has been his hallmark. There is a no point arguing that cybernetics (computer) technology turned man’s earlier inventions merely the “relics” of the past! As we look at the stages and development of recorded history, the ancient Sumerians and the Egyptians never dreamed of data processing with the invention of writing and introducing their alphabets. The evolution started with the use of crude clay tablets and sharp flint stones for in scripting. Soon the cuneiform and hieroglyphics gave way to the modern western alphabet.


Since the introduction of the pen and ink as early as the seventh century the papyrus, tree barks and parchments were discontinued and replaced by paper. One of the greatest undertakings is the collection and preservation of thousand literary masterpieces, philosophical and scientific studies, political, economic and social tracts, treatises and dissertations including copies of priceless collection of books of antiquity deposited in the ancient library of Alexandria in Egypt.

Beneath the rule of men, entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword – Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton

Penna is a Greek word for feather. The quill or plume is a flying feather of geese that is cut with a shaped sharp point (nib) for smooth and easy scribbling. Since its appearance the pen or the Quill has affected our lives.

Without the quill pen, ink and parchment there will be no document as historic as the Magna Carta. History tells us of a power grab when King John was forced by the barons to sign a document in 1215 in Runnymede, England, limiting his power and prerogatives as supreme ruler. Today, “magna carta” refers to any charter providing the condition and the exercise of civil and political rights such as the right of the accused to confront his accusers or the presumption of innocence until tried and proven guilty by his peers.

Michel Nostradamus used the quill to write down his predictions. Five hundred years after his death in 1566, this French astrologer still enjoys a large cult following who eagerly enjoy watching his list of prophesy revealed one by one with “amazing” accuracy including the terrorist bombing of the New York City World Trade Building bombing on September 11, 2001.

Today, man’s recent remarkable innovation in the data processing and communication technology is the emergence of pen and paper less but powerful computers called laptop. It has an option that includes portable printer capability. This travel-friendly is light in weight, small in size and above all wireless, battery operated or “pluggable” meaning anywhere wherever there are electrical and telephone outlets. It can be truly a WEAPON OF MASS DISTRIBUTION using the INTERNET

One drop of ink makes thousands, perhaps millions think. – Lord Byron

Many of the famous speeches and oral declarations were originally written with the pen in calligraphic or formal handwriting manuscripts. We look back in history when Patrick Henry in the halls of the Virginia House of Burgess with booming voice thundered, “Give me liberty or give me death!” or when Tom Paine read his Common Sense book, “These are the times that try men’s soul”, or share reading with Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration document, “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve their political bands with each other”,   “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuits of happiness.” And how about the popular Gettysburg Address that Abraham Lincoln scribbled with the quill pen aboard the train? Among the beautiful passages are found in the opening and at the concluding paragraph, “Four scores and seven years ago our forefathers brought forth in this continent”. Then he concluded saying, “That this government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”

Powerful words and phrases, metaphors and imagery only gifted and dedicated men and women flawlessly expressed their ideas and convictions to stir up or inspire emotions during crucial moments. Those moments in history are vividly captured, saved and stored.

The quill pen connection has done much to enrich Philippine history. Without it, we will be deprived of some interesting passages from Francisco Balagtas Baltazar’s  Florante At Laura, like  “O mahiganting langit bangis mo’y nasaan?” or  “Ang batang lumaki sa layaw karaniwan ay hubad.”

In the struggle for democracy, freedom and independence of his people, Dr Jose Rizal did so much using the quill pen, annotating Morga’s work on Pre-Spanish Philippines, laboriously writing and rewriting the original manuscripts of the NOLI and FILI, and of course the poem addressed to his Motherland. Whether or not he did on purpose leaving the poem without a title his last major literary masterpiece was hidden in a kerosene lamp and smuggled out of Fort Santiago with the connivance of his sister. Believe it or not, it is popularly known by its opening stanza, “Adios patria adorada.”             

We cannot underestimate how valuable is the role of the quill pen as an effective instrument of change, be it political, social and religious in pestering the government or the church or an establishment. Worse still, is the impact of writing to incite or foment bloody revolutions notably those from Dr. Jose Rizal and Thomas Paine. # # #

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 May 2008 00:55

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