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An “Engraved Tablet”, but it’s not what you think

engraved tablet medicine

At Engravers Guild, we always say that an engraving can mean a lot.

And we can think of few engravings that mean more than this one…

Just read the following words that were engraved:

I can’t configure / A tablet / Chiselled by God’s finger / Or forge / A scrawled prescription / But here’s an inscription formed / On the small white dot / Of its own / Full stop, / The sugared pill / Of a poem, one sentence / That speaks ill / Of illness itself, bullet / With cancer’s name / Carved brazenly on it.

It is a poem indeed, and a beautiful one certainly.

But it takes on new depths of meaning when learning what it was engraved on.

The whole poem was engraved on a pill; to be precise, a 2cm x 1cm chemotherapy pill.

The micro engraving was commissioned by the Institute of Cancer Research in London, intended to symbolise the end of cancer being considered an unmanageable disease.

Hence the poem is titled, “Finishing It”.

The entire work has a beautiful symmetry.

Just as scientists around the world pore over microscopes as they create new treatments, so the engraver had to work through a microscope to create the inscription.

The engraver is no stranger to followers of the Engravers Guild journal, and is none other than Graham Short.

Credited with crafting some of the world’s smallest engravings, the precision required when working at that scale is such that he works with a stethoscope to make sure he only applies pressure between heartbeats.

This piece was a collaboration with Simon Armitage, the new Poet Laureate.

The nation’s wordsmith was following in the footsteps of many literary greats, who had established a strong tradition of having their works engraved.

William Blake famously made etchings and engraved printing plates of his poems, and this project has pushed the boundaries of poetry and engraving to new heights.

Should you like to see the work, the engraved pill will be on display at the Centre of Cancer Drug Discovery when it opens in 2020.

…just remember to take your microscope if you want to see it!