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Monday, March 14, 2011

An excerpt from Areopagitica

Jost Amman, Printer's Workshop, 1568.
Posted by staff

"....Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.  I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon's teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.  And yet, on the other hand, unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book.  Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.  Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is precious life blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life...."  from Areopagitica by John Milton

Most people today think of John Milton only as the author of Paradise Lost, but he was also a civil servant and scholar.  Milton's works are extensive and cover subjects in philosophy, politics, and theology as well as poetry.  He wrote Aeropagitica in 1644 during the English Civil War.  The speech was in response to The Licensing Order of 1643 that would 1) require pre-publication licensing of all written materials, 2) registration of all printed materials, 3) search, seizure, and destruction of any printed materials offensive to the government, and 4) arrest and imprisonment of any writer, printer, or publisher.  The speech is considered to be one of the most influential defenses of press freedom ever written.

If you would like to read the entire speech, request the item here.

If you would like to request any other of John Milton's works from the library system, request them here.

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