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Once upon a time my dad got it into his mind that he should be able to read our Constitution. I don't mean that he felt it wasn't his right, he knew it was. I mean he felt it wasn't legible nor was it accessible. He wanted to know the shape and the strength of the letters on a paper he could hold in his hand.

Dad was retired and always one to turn a stray thought into a long term project. He had his drafting table and his skills in photography and cartography. He figured it would not be that difficult…

He purchased the best full sized reproductions of the Constitution of The United States (1787), The Bill of Rights (1791), and The Declaration of Independence (1776) available at the National Archives. He viewed the portions of the Constitution that were on display under glass while there. In the last 60 years only portions of these documents were displayed at any single point in time. Then for awhile they were totally removed from public display. In 2003 a renovated Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom was opened at the National Archive Building in Washington, DC and now all 4 pages of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are displayed simultaneously.

Dad carried his reproductions home and made copies of the copies.

Sitting for hours on end at that drafting table he calligraphed over the faded words, following the hand of the original artist. He inked over the signatures of our Founding Fathers, with only respect intended. He even restored the "mistakes"; figuring who was he to correct this icon. But he didn't allow his own mistakes to remain. Any blot and that page was discarded, along with months of work at times. He strove for perfection on his end.

When all 6 pages were complete (about 10 years later) he did the shrinky-dink trick and brought the scale down to 16 x 20 inches (a size he felt was more manageable for the average person to hold and read). He made photographic plates. Then he had prints made on heavy stock paper.

Digital images of the original records are now available on the Internet, but I agree with my father about the joy of seeing the words on paper, in the twists and turns of ink.


More about or by Manuel Menendez can be found in 
Sequoia National Park

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