Edgar Allan Poe.

The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 10) online

. (page 10 of 21)
Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 10) → online text (page 10 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


made, can excite no surprise in any thinking person;
the only matter for surprise is that it has not been
made many years ago. The obviousness of the pro
cess, however, in no degree lessens its importance.
Indeed, its inevitable results enkindle the imagination
and embarrass the understanding.

Every one will perceive at once that the ordinary
process of stereotyping will be abolished. Through
this ordinary process a publisher, to be sure, is en
abled to keep on hand the means of producing edition
after edition of any work the certainty of whose sale
will justify the cost of stereotyping, which is trifling
in comparison with that of resetting the matter. But
still, positively, this cost (of stereotyping) is great.
Moreover, there cannot always be certainty about
sales. Publishers frequently are forced to reset works
which they have neglected to stereotype, thinking
them unworthy the expense ; and many excellent works
are not published at all, because small editions do not
pay, and the anticipated sales will not warrant the cost

165



Anastatic Printing

of stereotype. Some of these difficulties will be at
once remedied by the anastatic printing, and all will
be remedied in a brief time. A publisher has only to
print as many copies as are immediately demanded.
He need print no more than a dozen, indeed, unless he
feels perfectly confident of success. Preserving one
copy, he can from this, at no other cost than that of
the zinc, produce with any desirable rapidity as many
impressions as he may think proper. Some idea of the
advantages thus accruing may be gleaned from the
fact that in several of the London publishing ware
houses there is deposited in stereotype-plates alone
property to the amount of a million sterling.

The next view of the case, in point of obviousness,
is, that if necessary a hundred thousand impressions
per hour, or even infinitely more, can be taken of any
newspaper or similar publication. As many presses
can be put in operation as the occasion may require,
indeed, there can be no limit to the number of copies
producible, provided we have no limit to the number
of presses.

The tendency of all this to cheapen information, to
diffuse knowledge and amusement, and to bring before
the public the very class of works which are most valu
able, but least in circulation on account of unsalability,
is what need scarcely be suggested to any one. But
benefits such as these are merely the immediate and
most obvious by no means the most important.

166



Anastatic Printing

For some years, perhaps, the strong spirit of conven
tionality, of conservation, will induce authors in gen
eral to have recourse, as usual, to the setting of type.
A printed book now is more sightly and more legible
than any MS., and for some years the idea will not be
overthrown that this state of things is one of necessity.
But by degrees it will be remembered that, while MS.
was a necessity, men wrote after such fashion that no
books printed in modern times have surpassed their
MSS. either in accuracy or in beauty. This considera
tion will lead to the cultivation of a neat and distinct
style of handwriting, for authors will perceive the
immense advantage of giving their own MSS. directly
to the public without the expensive interference of the
typesetter, and the often ruinous intervention of the
publisher. All that a man of letters need do will be
to pay some attention to legibility of MS., arrange his
pages to suit himself, and stereotype them instan
taneously as arranged. He may intersperse them with
his own drawings, or with anything to please his own
fancy, in the certainty of being fairly brought before
his readers with all the freshness of his original con
ception about him.

And at this point we are arrested by a consideration
of infinite moment, although of a seemingly shadowy
character. The cultivation of accuracy in MS. thus
enforced will tend, with an inevitable impetus, to every
species of improvement in style, more especially in the

167



Anastatic Printing

points of concision and distinctness ; and this, again, in
a degree even more noticeable, to precision of thought
and luminous arrangement of matter. There is a very
peculiar and easily intelligible reciprocal influence be
tween the thing written and the manner of writing,
but the latter has the predominant influence of the
two. The more remote effect on philosophy at large,
which will inevitably result from improvement of style
and thought in the points of concision, distinctness,
and accuracy, need only be suggested to be conceived.

As a consequence of attention being directed to neat
ness and beauty of MS., the antique profession of the
scribe will be revived, affording abundant employment
to women, their delicacy of organization fitting them
peculiarly for such tasks. The female amanuensis,
indeed, will occupy very nearly the position of the
present male typesetter, whose industry will be di
verted perforce into other channels.

These considerations are of vital importance, but
there is yet one beyond them all. The value of every
book is a compound of its literary value and its physi
cal or mechanical value, as the product of physical
labor applied to the physical material. But at present
the latter value immensely predominates even in the
works of the most esteemed authors. It will be seen,
however, that the new condition of things will at once
give the ascendency to the literary values, and thus, by
their literary values, will books come to be estimated

168



Anastatic Printing

among men. The wealthy gentleman of " elegant
leisure " will lose the vantage-ground now afforded
him, and will be forced to tilt on terms of equality with
the poor-devil author. At present the literary world
is a species of anomalous congress, in which the ma
jority of the members are constrained to listen in silence
while all the eloquence proceeds from a privileged few.
In the new regime the humblest will speak as often
and as freely as the most exalted, and will be sure of
receiving just that amount of attention which the in
trinsic merit of their speeches may deserve.

From what we have said it will be evident that the
discovery of anastatic printing will not only not ob
viate the necessity of copyright laws, and of an inter
national law in especial, but will render this necessity
more imperative and more apparent. It has been
shown that in depressing the value of the physique of
a book the invention will proportionately elevate the
value of its morale, and since it is the latter value alone
which the copyright laws are needed to protect, the
necessity of the protection will be only the more ur
gent and more obvious than ever.




169




Eureka



AN ESSAY ON THE MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL
UNIVERSE

To the few who love me and whom I love, to those who
feel rather than to those who think, to the dreamers and those
who put faith in dreams as in the only realities, I offer this
book of truths, not in its character of truth-teller, but for
the beauty that abounds in its truth, constituting it true.
To these I present the composition as an art-product alone
let us say as a romance ; or, if I be not urging too lofty a
claim, as a poem.

What I here propound is true : therefore it cannot die ; or,
if by any means it be now trodden down so that it die, it will
" rise again to the Life Everlasting."

Nevertheless it is as a poem only that I wish this work to be
judged after I am dead.




T is with humility really unassumed, it is
with a sentiment even of awe, that I pen
the opening sentence of this work; for of
all conceivable subjects I approach the reader with
the most solemn, the most comprehensive, the most
difficult, the most august.

170



Eureka

What terms shall I find sufficiently simple in their
sublimity, sufficiently sublime in their simplicity, for
the mere enunciation of my theme ?

I design to speak of the physical, metaphysical, and
mathematical of the material and spiritual universe
of its essence, its origin, its creation, its present con
dition, and its destiny. I shall be so rash, moreover,
as to challenge the conclusions, and thus, in effect, to
question the sagacity, of many of the greatest and
most justly reverenced of men.

In the beginning, let me as distinctly as possible
announce, not the theorem which I hope to demon
strate for, whatever the mathematicians may assert,
there is, in this world at least, no such thing as demon
stration but the ruling idea which, throughout this
volume, I shall be continually endeavoring to suggest.

My general proposition, then, is this: In the orig
inal unity of the first thing lies the secondary cause
of all things, with the germ of their inevitable anni
hilation.

In illustration of this idea I propose to take such a
survey of the universe that the mind may be able
really to receive and to perceive an individual impres
sion.

He who from the top of ^Etna casts his eyes leisurely
around, is affected chiefly by the extent and diversity
of the scene. Only by a rapid whirling on his heel
could he hope to comprehend the panorama in the

171



Eureka

sublimity of its oneness. But as, on the summit of
^Etna, no man has thought of whirling on his heel, so
no man has ever taken into his brain the full unique
ness of the prospect; and so, again, whatever consid
erations lie involved in this uniqueness have as yet
no practical existence for mankind.

I do not know a treatise in which a survey of the
universe, using the word in its most comprehensive
and only legitimate acceptation, is taken at all; and
it may be as well here to mention that by the term
" universe," wherever employed without qualification
in this essay, I mean to designate the utmost conceiv
able expanse of space, with all things, spiritual and
material, that can be imagined to exist within the com
pass of that expanse. In speaking of what is ordi
narily implied by the expression, " universe," I shall
take a phrase of limitation " the universe of stars."
Why this distinction is considered necessary will be
seen in the sequel.

But even of treatises on the really limited, although
always assumed as the unlimited, universe of stars, I
I know none in which a survey, even of this limited
universe, is so taken as to warrant deductions from
its individuality. The nearest approach to such a work
is made in the Cosmos of Alexander von Humboldt.
He presents the subject, however, not in its individu
ality but in its generality. His theme, in its last result,
is the law of each portion of the merely physical uni-

172



Eureka

verse, as this law is related to the laws of every other
portion of this merely physical universe. His design
is simply synoeretical. In a word, he discusses the
universality of material relation, and discloses to the
eye of philosophy whatever inferences have hitherto
lain hidden behind this universality. But, however
admirable be the succinctness with which he has
treated each particular point of his topic, the mere
multiplicity of these points occasions, necessarily, an
amount of detail, and thus an involution of idea, which
preclude all individuality of impression.

It seems to me that, in aiming at this latter effect,
and, through it, at the consequences, the conclusions,
the suggestions, the speculations, or, if nothing better
offer itself, the mere guesses which may result from it,
we require something like a mental gyration on the
heel. We need so rapid a revolution of all things about
the central point of sight that, while the minutiae van
ish altogether, even the more conspicuous objects
become blended into one. Among the vanishing
minutiae, in a survey of this kind, would be all exclu
sively terrestrial matters. The earth would be con
sidered in its planetary relations alone. A man, in
this view, becomes mankind; mankind, a member of
the cosmical family of intelligences.

And now, before proceeding to our subject proper,
let me beg the reader's attention to an extract or two
from a somewhat remarkable letter, which appears



Eureka

to have been found corked in a bottle and floating on
the Mare Tenebrarum, an ocean well described by the
Nubian geographer, Ptolemy Hephestion, but little fre
quented in modern days unless by the transcendental-
ists and some other divers for crotchets. The date of
this letter, I confess, surprises me even more par
ticularly than its contents ; for it seems to have been
written in the year two thousand eight hundred and
forty-eight. As for the passages I am about to tran
scribe, they, I fancy, will speak for themselves.

" Do you know, my dear friend," says the writer,
addressing, no doubt, a contemporary, " do you know
that it is scarcely more than eight or nine hundred
years ago since the metaphysicians first consented to
relieve the people of the singular fancy that there exist
but two practicable roads to truth ? Believe it if you
can. It appears, however, that long, long ago, in the
night of time, there lived a Turkish philosopher called
Aries and surnamed Tottle. [Here, possibly, the
letter- writer means Aristotle; the best names are
wretchedly corrupted in two or three thousand years.]
The fame of this great man depended mainly upon
his demonstration that sneezing is a natural provision,
by means of which over-profound thinkers are en
abled to expel superfluous ideas through the nose ; but
he obtained a scarcely less valuable celebrity as the
founder, or at all events as the principal propagator, of
what was termed the deductive or a priori philosophy.



Eureka

He started with what he maintained to be axioms, or
self-evident truths ; and the now well-understood fact
that no truths are self-evident really does not make in
the slightest degree against his speculations; it was
sufficient for his purpose that the truths in question
were evident at all. From axioms he proceeded, logi
cally, to results. His most illustrious disciples were
one Tuclid, a geometrician [meaning Euclid], and one
Kant, a Dutchman, the originator of that species of
transcendentalism which, with the change merely of a
C for a K, now bears his peculiar name.

" Well, Aries Tottle flourished supreme, until the
advent of one Hog, surnamed * the Ettrick Shepherd,'
who preached an entirely different system, which he
called the a posteriori, or inductive. His plan referred
altogether to sensation. He proceeded by observing,
analyzing, and classifying facts, instantiac naturae, as
they were somewhat affectedly called, and arranging
them into general laws. In a word, while the mode of
Aries rested on noumena, that of Hog depended on
phenomena ; and so great was the admiration excited
by this latter system that, at its first introduction, Aries
fell into general disrepute. Finally, however, he re
covered ground and was permitted to divide the empire
of philosophy with his more modern rival, the savants
contenting themselves with proscribing all other com
petitors, past, present, and to come ; putting an end to
all controversy on the topic by the promulgation of a



Eureka

Median law, to the effect that the Aristotelian and
Baconian roads are, and of right ought to be, the sole
possible avenues to knowledge : ' Baconian,' you
must know, my dear friend," adds the letter-writer at
this point, " was an adjective invented as equivalent
to Hog-ian, and at the same time more dignified and
euphonious.

" Now, I do assure you most positively," proceeds
the epistle, " that I represent these matters fairly; and
you can easily understand how restrictions so absurd
on their very face must have operated, in those days,
to retard the progress of true science, which makes its
most important advances, as all history will show, by
seemingly intuitive leaps. These ancient ideas con
fined investigation to crawling ; and I need not suggest
to you that crawling, among varieties of locomotion,
is a very capital thing of its kind ; but because the tor
toise is sure of foot, for this reason must we clip the
wings of the eagles ? For many centuries so great was
the infatuation, about Hog especially, that a virtual
stop was put to all thinking, properly so called. No
man dared utter a truth for which he felt himself in
debted to his soul alone. It mattered not whether the
truth was even demonstrably such; for the dogma
tizing philosophers of that epoch regarded only the road
by which it professed to have been attained. The end,
with them, was a point of no moment whatever:
'the means!' they vociferated, 'let us look at the

176



Eureka

means ! ' and if, on scrutiny of the means, it was found
neither to come under the category Hog, nor under the
category Aries (which means ram), why, then, the
savants went no farther, but, calling the thinker a fool
and branding him a ' theorist,' would never, thencefor
ward, have anything to do either with him or with his
truths.

" Now, my dear friend," continues the letter-writer,
" it cannot be maintained that by the crawling system,
exclusively adopted, men would arrive at the maxi
mum amount of truth, even in any long series of ages ;
for the repression of imagination was an evil not to be
counterbalanced even by absolute certainty in the
snail processes. But their certainty was very far from
absolute. The error of our progenitors was quite
analogous with that of the wiseacre who fancies he
must necessarily see an object the more distinctly the
more closely he holds it to his eyes. They blinded
themselves, too, with the impalpable, titillating Scotch
snuff of detail ; and thus the boasted facts of the Hog-
ites were by no means always facts, a point of little
importance but for the assumption that they always
were. The vital taint, however, in Baconianism, its
most lamentable fount of error, lay in its tendency to
throw power and consideration into the hands of
merely perceptive men, of those inter-Tritonic min
nows, the microscopical savants, the diggers and ped-
lers of minute facts, for the most part in physical

VOL.



Eureka

science, facts, all of which they retailed at the same
price upon the highway, their value depending, it was
supposed, simply upon the fact of their fact, without
reference to their applicability or inapplicability in the
development of those ultimate and only legitimate
facts called law.

" Than the persons," the letter goes on to say,
" than the persons thus suddenly elevated by the Hog-
ian philosophy into a station for which they were
unfitted, thus transferred from the sculleries into the
parlors of science, from its pantries into its pulpits,
than these individuals a more intolerant, a more in
tolerable, set of bigots and tyrants never existed on the
face of the earth. Their creed, their text, and their
sermon were, alike, the one word * fact ' ; but, for the
most part, even of this one word they knew not even
the meaning. On those who ventured to disturb their
facts with the view of putting them in order and to
use, the disciples of Hog had no mercy whatever. All
attempts at generalization were met at once by the
words ' theoretical,' ' theory,' * theorist ' ; all thought,
to be brief, was very properly resented as a personal
affront to themselves. Cultivating the natural sci
ences to the exclusion of metaphysics, the mathe
matics, and logic, many of these Bacon-engendered
philosophers one-idea-ed, one-sided, and lame of a
leg were more wretchedly helpless, more miserably
ignorant, in view of all the comprehensible objects of

178



Eureka

knowledge, than the veriest unlettered hind who proves
that he knows something, at least, in admitting that he
knows absolutely nothing.

" Nor had our forefathers any better right to talk
about certainty, when pursuing, in blind confidence,
the a priori path of axioms, or of the Ram. At in
numerable points this path was scarcely as straight as
a ram's horn. The simple truth is, that the Aristotel
ians erected their castles upon a basis far less reliable
than air ; for no such things as axioms ever existed or
can possibly exist at all. This they must have been
very blind indeed not to see, or at least not to suspect ;
for, even in their own day, many of their long-admitted
* axioms ' had been abandoned ' ex nlhllo nihil fit/
for example, and a * thing cannot act where it is not,'
and * there cannot be antipodes,' and ' darkness cannot
proceed from light.' These and numerous similar
propositions formerly accepted, without hesitation, as
axioms, or undeniable truths, were, even at the period
of which I speak, seen to be altogether untenable ; how
absurd in these people, then, to persist in relying upon
a basis, as immutable, whose mutability had become so
repeatedly manifest!

" But, even through evidence afforded by them
selves against themselves, it is easy to convict these
a priori reasoners of the grossest unreason ; it is easy
to show the futility, the impalpability, of their axioms
in general. I have now lying before me," it will be

179



Eureka

observed that we still proceed with the letter, " I
have now lying before me a book printed about a
thousand years ago. Pundit assures me that it is de
cidedly the cleverest ancient work on its topic, which
is ' Logic.' The author, who was much esteemed in
his day, was one Miller, or Mill; and we find it re
corded of him, as a point of some importance, that he
rode a mill-horse whom he called Jeremy Bentham;
but let us glance at the volume itself.

" Ah ! * Ability or inability to conceive,' says Mr.
Mill, very properly, is in no case to be received as a
criterion of axiomatic truth.' Now, that this is a pal
pable truism no one in his senses will deny. Not to
admit the proposition is to insinuate a charge of vari
ability in truth itself, whose very title is a synonym
of the steadfast. If ability to conceive be taken as a
criterion of truth, then a truth to David Hume would
very seldom be a truth to Joe ; and ninety-nine hun-
dredths of what is undeniable in heaven would be
demonstrable falsity upon earth. The proposition of
Mr. Mill, then, is sustained. I will not grant it to be
an axiom ; and this merely because I am showing that
no axioms exist; but, with a distinction which could
not have been cavilled at even by Mr. Mill himself, I
am ready to grant that, if an axiom there be, then the
proposition of which we speak has the fullest right to
be considered an axiom, that no more absolute axiom
is, and, consequently, that any subsequent proposition

1 80



Eureka

which shall conflict with this one primarily advanced
must be either a falsity in itself, that is to say, no
axiom, or, if admitted axiomatic, must at once neu
tralize both itself and its predecessor.

" And now, by the logic of their own propounder, let
us proceed to test any one of the axioms propounded.
Let us give Mr. Mill the fairest of play. We will bring
the point to no ordinary issue. We will select for in
vestigation no commonplace axiom, no axiom of what,
not the less preposterously because only impliedly, he
terms his secondary class as if a positive truth by
definition could be either more or less positively a
truth; we will select, I say, no axiom of an unques-
tionability so questionable as is to be found in Euclid.
We will not talk, for example, about such propositions
as that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, or
that the whole is greater than any one of its parts. We
will afford the logician every advantage. We will
come at once to a proposition which he regards as the
acme of the unquestionable, as the quintessence of
axiomatic undeniability. Here it is : ' Contradictions
cannot both be true, that is, cannot coexist in nature.'
Here Mr. Mill means, for instance, and I give the
most forcible instance conceivable, that a tree must
be either a tree or not a tree, that it cannot be at the
same time a tree and not a tree: all which is quite
reasonable of itself, and will answer remarkably well
as an axiom, until we bring it into collation with an

181



Eureka

axiom insisted upon a few pages before; in other
words, words which I have previously employed,
until we test it by the logic of its own propounder. ' A
tree,' Mr. Mill asserts, ' must be either a tree or not a
tree.' Very well : and now let me ask him, Why ?
To this little query there is but one response; I defy
any man living to invent a second. The sole answer
is this : ' Because we find it impossible to conceive that
a tree can be anything else than a tree or not a tree.'
This, I repeat, is Mr. Mill's sole answer ; he will not pre
tend to suggest another ; and yet, by his own showing,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryEdgar Allan PoeThe complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (Volume 10) → online text (page 10 of 21)