Machiavelli and Anthony Weiner

Sculptor, Lorenzo Bartolini (1777–1850)

It started out, appropriately enough, with a post on Twitter. @GreatestQuotes posted “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” attributing the quote to Niccolò Machiavelli. The metaphysical examination of one’s inner life is a bit outside of Machiavelli’s purview, so it raised my suspicions. Hunting down fake quotes is something of a hobbyhorse. It turns out, however, that it is indeed Machiavelli: from chapter 18 of The Prince, (How Princes Should Keep Faith) but truncated and poorly translated. Here’s the full passage:

Everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by results.

Machiavelli is commenting on the crucial importance of appearances in politics. (And he’s addressing the prince, not the common person bewildered that no one really understands them, pace @GreatestQuotes.)

There are certain standards of behavior and speech that public officials must observe, and this is as true in our time as it was in his because “people in general judge by the eye rather than by the hand, for everyone can see but few can touch.” A leader must “seem merciful, faithful, humane, religious, and upright” or he risks the condemnation of his people. You may, at this point, object that there are many politicians who possess none or few of these traits, but you will be hard pressed to find one who does not preach them verbally. This is one of the occupational hazards of politics, the importance of appearance, politicians know it going in and we play along with it as well. We know full well our leaders are not perfect, even those we support, but we want them to appear to be.

Progressives are embarrassed by Rep. Weiner’s actions even though they seem to have little to do with the practical aspects of government. But they do. The ability to rally popular support for government action is built on the foundation of public opinion. A politician who has harmed himself with foolish words and images contrary to the standards of appearance that we expect is a damaged spokesperson for the politics and policies that he supports. A leader derives much of his power from the support and the enthusiasm of the people he represents, even in a principality. A humiliated Anthony Weiner lacks the moral force that he had before all this happened. He was a powerful liberal voice in the Congress that is now diminished. That is precisely what Machiavelli is warning against.

On Machiavelli, Hourglasses, and More Fake Quotes

“The more sand has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it”

Not as pernicious as the overthrowing the status quo false quotation I discussed earlier, this one does seem to have some staying power as a fake Machiavelli. The fact that it’s pretty blatantly not Machiavelli’s style or subject matter doesn’t seem to slow folks down. What makes this quote intriguing is that we have a double misattribution.

Jeanpaul.jpgThe quote seems to be from the German Romantic writer Johann Paul Friedrich Richter, better known by his nom de plume Jean Paul. Rev. James Woods attributes the saying to Jean Paul in his Dictionary of Quotations: from Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources of 1893, although lacking a source for the quote. That’s the earliest I can trace it back without going into the stacks. But the lack of an actual source text and my cautious nature force me to qualify my attribution of authorship.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Perhaps due to Jean Paul’s relative obscurity, the quote seems to have latched on to a more famous Jean Paul: the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Unlike the obviously false Machiavelli attribution, which only appears in the usual rogues’ gallery of quote aggregators, Sartre gets credit for this one in a number of published books of quotations and other folk wisdom. Shamefully, it actually appears on At least it’s apparent how the confusion occurred. How Machiavelli got involved with this one, I have no idea.

The lesson in all of this is that the quote aggregators like brainyquote, searchquote, and their ilk should be avoided at all costs. Wikiquote seems like a better bet if you’re just looking for something to paste into Twitter and you’re not some nut who hunts down quotes he finds on the Internet in some Quixotic quest for historical accuracy.

Machiavelli is not Interested in Overthrowing the Status Quo

Medici Window

“I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.”

I’ve seen this quote all over the internet attributed to Machiavelli. It pops up about five times a day in Twitter, shows up on all the major quote aggregators, and has made its way into not a few blog posts and articles. Theres only one problem. Machiavelli never wrote it.

When I first read the quote attributed to Machiavelli, it set off alarm bells. I couldn’t remember reading it for one thing, but Machiavelli left behind a large body of written work: his political treatises, The Art of War, his plays, letters and dispatches, so it’s possible I missed it. But a search of Machiavelli’s complete works reveals nothing. And what really made me pause was that it just didn’t sound like Machiavelli. When would he have written such a thing? Not when he was working in government, because at that point he was part of the status quo, and certainly not after his exile, because then he was desperate to get back in the good graces of the status quo. That and an inflammatory statement like that was the sort of thing that could get a man thrown in a cell, especially a man like Machiavelli who was viewed with suspicion in the first place. There was no First Amendment in Renaissance Florence.

So who said it?

Newt Gingrich, it turns out.

The origin of the quote, as near as I can tell, is this 1991 article from the LA Times.

Gingrich has dismissed the House as a “corrupt institution,” its Democratic leadership as “sick” and its last three Speakers as “a trio of muggers.” “A tin-horn Joe McCarthy,” harrumphs Democratic Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin. “He’ll stab you in the back in a New York second,” states Alexander.
Such jabs don’t faze Gingrich. “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it,” he says. “Of course people are going to resent that.”

The quote shows up as Gingrich’s in a couple of books as well.

The phrasing in the LA Times article is exactly the same as the “Machiavelli” quote found around the Internet, including the semicolon, reinforcing the idea that the quote was lifted from the article. How or where it got attached to Machiavelli I have no idea.

But someone—many people, actually—was wrong on the Internet, and I had to do something about that.


Thank You for Your Patience

Those of you reading with Firefox or Opera probably never noticed a difference. But those using Safari, Mobile Safari, or Android saw a blank page when they visited the site yesterday. Actually, not precisely blank; the page would load, appear for an instant, then disappear. It turns out that the new lightbox plug-in I installed (Lightbox Plus) was conflicting with the embedded sign up form I had posted for Graphic Novel Month back in January. When the javascript for the form ran, it blanked the site. It took me a while to track down because the Graphic Novel Month form had been up for so long and hadn’t caused any trouble, so I was looking in all the wrong places. Anyway, I replaced the form with a link to a sign up page and all appears to be as it should be.

Federico and Taddeo Zuccaro

According to the Getty Museum website:

In this series of twenty drawings, Federico Zuccaro illustrated the early life of his older brother Taddeo Zuccaro, from the hardships of his early training in Rome until his first artistic triumph at the age of eighteen. In addition to the sixteen scenes from Taddeo’s life, the series includes four drawings of allegorical Virtues flanking the Zuccaro emblem. The drawings vividly convey a sense of the artist’s material and intellectual life in Renaissance Rome. Details of studio practice join depictions of precise locations, monuments, and antiquities and references to the great artistic personalities of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo and Raphael. Scholars believe that the shape of the drawings shows that they were studies for decorative ceiling panels. Because so many of the sheets contain images of Rome, they may have been intended for frescoes in the Palazzo Zuccari in Rome. In Federico’s will of 1603, he left his palazzo to the Accademia di San Luca so that it could be used as a hostel for poor, young artists coming to study in the capital. The imagery of Taddeo’s early struggles would have been an appropriate reminder for the students at the beginning of their careers.

The Typography of Machiavelli

In choosing the typefaces for Machiavelli, I wanted to go with fonts that had a source in the period and evoked ink on paper.

P22 Morris Golden is used for captions and chapter pages.
p22 morris golden

William Morris (1834-1896) was probably the most influential figure in the decorative arts and private press movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. In reaction to the increasing lack of quality that the industrial revolution brought on, Morris sought a return to the ideals of the medieval craftsman. Dissatisfied with the commercially available typefaces of the day, he undertook the design of the fonts for his books himself…. The P22 Morris font set features new versions of Morris’s famous type designs for his Kelmscott Press. P22 created MORRIS GOLDEN with a rough edge to simulate the look of printing on handmade paper.

P22 Operina Pro is used for dialogue.
p22 operina pro

Operina is based on a 16th-century lettering model of the scribe Ludovico degli Arrighi (Vicentino Ludovico degli Arrighi) used in his 1522 instructional lettering book, La Operina da Imparare di scrivere littera Cancellarescha. This book contains what is considered to be the earliest printed examples of Chancery Cursive.

Rather than try to reproduce a perfect, smooth, type-like version of Ludovico’s hand, which has been attempted in the past, the designer opted to leave in some rough edges and, thereby, create a look that mimics the endearing artifacts of quill and ink lettering on parchment.

Arrighi type specimen sheet

Ludovico degli Arrighi: type specimen sheet from 1522.

Ludovico degli Arrighi began his career as a printer and publisher in 1524 in partnership with Lautizio Perugino, a goldsmith who may have been his punch cutter. Following Aldus’s lead, Arrighi used types based on the cancelleresca corsiva hand that was used by the Vatican scribes. Arrighi provided patterns for the corsiva in his writing manual, La Operina, published in Rome in 1522. (Source:

So you want to know about Graphic Novel Month?

January is Graphic Novel Month.

I’ve gotten a bunch of questions so some clarifications are in order. First, this isn’t a club. It’s more like a mutual benign peer pressure association with nagging thrown in. Mostly, we operate on twitter, but there’s a mailinglist if you’d like to keep up with us and you are Twitter averse.

You can write a book in a month

Well, a rough draft of a book. You can’t really write and draw a book in a month. Pease don’t. It will not be good. If you’ve already started something but you’re stalled out, that’s fine. Please join us. Although the stated goals of NGNM are to write a 125 page rough draft in January, feel free to join us if you’ve got some pages already worked out but you’ve stalled or you’ve got half a draft and want to hitch a ride. Awesome.

So Are You Prepared?

I think you want to have an idea of where you want to start and where you want to end up, this will probably change along the way, and that’s Ok. But it’s good to have a direction, even if it’s obsolete 20 pages in. As comic artists, you may want to create some character sheets. I personally think this is a good idea, but don’t get too hung up on them at this stage. A sheet of paper with a couple of sketches and some key details written down is fine for now. But start. Even if your research is not complete, or you don’t have character sheets, or a good outline, START. It’s OK if your first draft is shitty. It’s supposed to be. You have my permission. Just start drawing those thumbnails or writing that script come January. Get as prepared as you can and then GO, even if you don’t feel fully prepared. If you wait for full preparation, you’ll be waiting a long time.