John Milton.

Areopagitica. (24 November) 1644 ; preceded by illustrative documents online

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Unghsf) liqprmtg.


[24 November] 1644.


Carefully Edited by

Affociate, King's College, London, F.R.C.S., &>c.

Lauge Paper Edition.



Ent. Stat. Hall.} \ March, 1869. [All Rights referved.


> ■

ol ihc 1 loufc of < !ommoiu,

•I Mi: i | ' ( ollimo'is,

14 Job . 1 unmons,




\\ NT. Ill ....

1. The origin, ik licen


j. What is to be thought in general of readin \~

rder [of 14 June 1643] conduces nothing
to the end for which it was framed, . . 4'j

4. The manifeft hurt it cam

(i) I: is the greateft ment and affront

that can be offered to learning and to learned

nun, ...... 55

on undervaluing and vilifying of the

i» . . . . S5

It brings difrepute upon the Minifl . 59

1 1 ■(. — The (civile condition of learning in Italy,

the home of licencing, . . . .60

5. It may prove a nurfing mother to feels, . . 61

6. It will be the ftep-dame to Truth : —

(1) By disenabling u» in the maintenance of what

beady known, . . . .62

(2) By the incredible lofs it entails in hindering

the fearch after new Truth, . . . 66

Defcription of the Englifh nation, . . .68

The power ol Truth, . . . .74

An appeal fur toleration, fpilitual unity ami peace, 75

, . . . . .bo

-' I



]HAT half-living thing — a book : may be re-
garded in many ways. It may be confidered
in connection with the circumftances which
led to its conception and creation ; and in
the midft of which it appeared. It may be ftudied,
as exhibiting the moral intent, the mental power of
its author. Its contents may be analyfed as to their
intrinfic truthfulnefs or falfity. We may trace and
identify its influence upon its own age and on fucceed-
ing generations. This is an apprehenfion of the mind
of a book.

More than this. We may examine its flyle, its
power and manner of expreffing that mind. The
ringing collocation of its words, the harmonious
cadence of its fentences, the flaming gem-like beauty
of ifolated paffages, the juft mapping out of the
general argument, the due fubordination of its feveral
parts, their final inweaving into one overpowering
conclufion : thefe are the features, difcovering, illumi-
nating, enforcing the mind of a book.

Much of what is in books is falfe, much only half
true, much true. It is impoffible to feparate the tares
from the wheat. Every one, therefore — of neceffity —
muft read difcriminatively ; often lifting and fearching
for firft principles, often tefting the catenation of an
argument, often treafuring up incidental truths for
future ufe ; enjoying — as delights by the Avay — what-
ever felicity of expreffion, gorgeoufnefs of imagination,
vividnefs of defcription, or aptnefs of illuftration may
glance, like funfhine, athwart the path : the journey's
end being Truth.

The purpofe through thefe Englifh Reprints is to
bring this modern age face to face with the works of
our forefathers. The Editor and his clumfy framework

4 Introduction.

are unimportant and may be forgotten : if but that
the attention may be riveted upon the picture. The
thought of thefe Englifh Writers ia not dead. It
(lumbers. Underfland and then fubtract from it. the
colouring of time and circumftance, and it is
indincl with life: either the noxious life of foul
delufive error, or the ethereal life of Truth. We
have not, as vet, in all things attained to the height
of our Predeceffors' far-feeing conception: and even
the juft meafuring of their many millakes and errors
may not he time anil effort thrown away.

While there is very mu< h for us to learn from our
Ancients, both in what they faid and their manner of
faying it: there bids fair to be an increafing number
of learners among the Moderns. England is on the
eve of a great Education, in the which the unlettered
will become readers, the readers fludents, the fludents
fcholars. With this wider variety and increafed
] lower of the Englifh mind, the diligent fludy of the
national Literature and Language can hardly fail
both to fpread and to deepen. The number of fuch
learners tends therefore to multiply, until it (hall be
reputed a difgrace to be ignorant of our mother tongue
and of that which it enfhrines.

There is alfo no better or more effential preparative
for the outcome of a glorious literature in the Future,
than the careful fludy and accurate appreciation of
the treafures of the Pafl. The prefent Merchant-
Adventurer will efleem the ' Englifh Reprints' to be
crowned with a happy fuccefsj if — bringing thofe
treafures, as from afar, to every one's home, and there
difplaying them to a more public gaze — they (hall, in
however infignificant a degree, tend to that happy End.

The Printing Prefe, among many advantages, brought

to its early poffeffors one con (Ian t perplexity, which,

:ver, affumed different forms to different minds.

The power of every man, of every educated man, was

by it immenfely increafed for good or for evil. The

Introduction. 5

true-hearted grieved over the facility the prefs gave
to the fpread of error. The high-bred defpot chafed
at the new power ceafeleffly exercifed by the low-bred
intellect in queftioning and adjufting his prerogative,
in deftroying his would-be almightinefs in the mind of
the people, in bringing him under Law. The minifters
of the religions then extant were alarmed at the ready
promulgation of those reftlefs inquiries into the ulti-
mate nature of all things, left they fhould undermine
the foundations of civil fociety and ecclefiaftical polity,
and fo reduce the world to chaotic confufion. Thus
fome from confcientious duty, others with a wicked
fatisfaction, all unitedly or in turn, joined in clogging
the Prefs, in curtailing the new power that God in His
Providence had bellowed upon mankind.

Dr. Johnfon, in his Life of Milton — which, either
for wilful mifreprefentation or crafs incapacity to ap-
preciate his fubject, is to his perpetual difcredit — fairly
reprefents the views of one fide on the Liberty of the
Prefs, and through that the boundlefs liberty of
human thought.

"The danger of fuch unbounded liberty, and the danger of
bounding it, have produced a problem in the fcience of Govern-
ment which human underftanding feems hitherto unable to folve.
If nothing may be publifhed but what civil authority fhall have
previoufly approved, power muft always be the ftandard of
truth ; if every dreamer of innovations may propagate his pro-
jects, there can be no fettlement ; if every murmurer at govern-
ment may diffufe difcontent, there can be no peace ; and if every
fceptick in theology may teach his follies, there can be no reli-
gion. The remedy againft thefe evils is to punifh the authors ;
for it is yet allowed that every fociety may punifh, though not
prevent, the publication of opinions, which that fociety fhall
think pernicious ; but this punifhirent, though it may crufli the
author, promotes the book ; and it feems not more reafonable to
leave the right of printing unreftrained, becaufe writers may be
afterwards cenfured, than it would be to deep with doors unbolted,
becaufe by our laws we can hang a thief." *

Milton's anfwer to this had been already written : —

" Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely
according to confciencc above all liberties, t • • • Though all

• Lives of English Poets, I., 153, 154. London, 17X1. t p. 73

(, III.'/

■ play upon the earth,
lb be in ihe field, we do injurioufly by licencing and pro-
;h. Lei her and Falfhood grapplej
and open en-
El ifuting is the belt and su reft fuprefling

Who knows not that Truth i-. ltr..i..' oext to the Almighty j Ihe

■us. id licencings to make her vie-

the Drifts and the defences that error ufes

\ we learn from his Second Defence — written ten
after the prefentwork- -the Angularly conceptive
mind of Milton had grouped into one cycle fubjects
■ apparent immediate connection. Epifcopacy,
Divorce, Education, Freedom of the Individual, Free-
dom of the Prefe, had, to his mind, one point of iden-
tity and contact, one connecting link, — Liberty.
This, a cardinal thought of his entire life, feems to
have almofl overpowered him, as he faw the break-up
of the fyftem of the Thorough^ the nation uprifingagainfl.
the tyranny of a few, and laying — for all coming ages

the foundations of that religious, civil, and domeflic
Liberty, which it is our happinefs to enjoy.

( >f that great cycle, the ' Areopagitica' occupies but
a fubordinate part, Milton claffifying it under domeflic
liberty with divorce and education. He there alfo
tells us, his purpofe in writing it : —

" I wrote my Areopagitica, in order to deliver the prefs from
the reftraints with which it was encumbered ; that the power of
determining what was true and what was falfe, what ought to be
publifhed anil what to be fuppreffed, might no longer be en-
trufted to a few illiterate and illiberal individuals, who refufed
their fanction to any work which contained views or fentiments
at all above the level of the vulgar fuperftition."f

The following Orders, &c, have been reprinted;
partly to give the groundwork of fact to Milton's argu-
ment ; partly to (how the flrong hand and the blunt
mind of our Anceilors in refpect to the Prefs ; and
partly to aflift to a more perfect realization of the an-
iflic ideas and circumflances, in the midft of
which, Milton conceived the ' Areopagitica,' and so to
render more apparent its beauty and originality.

t Pro/e Works, I., 25^: St. John's Ed., 1848.






Made the eleuenth day of July
laft paft. 1637.

*[ Imprinted at London by Robert Barker
Printer to the Kings moft Excellent
Maieflie : And by the Affignes
of Iohn Bill. 1637.

In Camera Stellata coram Con-

io ibidem, vndecimo die
Iulij, Anno decimo teriio
Caroli h

! ■ lolm Bankes Knight^ His Ma-
iejlies Attourney General?, produced in Court
a Decree drawn and penned by the aduice of
the Right Honourable tin- 1 .onl Keeper of the
■t Scale of England^ the mojl Reuerend Fa-
ther in God the Lord An h-Bifhop of Canterbury his
Grace, the Right Honorable and Right Reuerend Father
in God the Lord Difhop of London Lord high Treafurer
of England, the Lord chicle [ufiices, and the Lord chiefe
Baron, touching the regulating of Printers and Founders
of letters, whereof the Court hauing confederation, the said
Decree was di reeled and ordered to be here Recorded, and
to the end the fame may be publique, and that euery one
whom it may concerne may take notice thereof, The Court
hath noic a/fo ordered, That the said Decree f hall fpeedily
'/ted, and that the same be fen t to J lis Maieflies
Printer for that purpofe. Jl 'hereas the three and twentieth
day of June in the eight ana twentieth yere of the reigne
of the late Queene Elizabeth, ana before, diners Decrees
and Ordinances haue bee/n made fot the better gouemment
and regulating of Printers ana Printing, which Orders
and Decrees haue beenefouna by experience to be defccliue
in fome particulars ; Ana diners abufes have jit hence
arifen, and ' beene praclifed 'by the craft and 'malice of wicked
and euill difpofed perfons, to thepreiudice of the publike;
And diners libellous, seditious, and mutinous bookes haue
beene vnduly printed, and other bookes and papers 'with-
out licence, to the disturbance of the peace of the Church and
State: For preuention whereof in time to come, It is now
d and Decreed, That the faid former Decrees and
Ordinances fhallfland in force with these Additions, Ex-
planations, and Alterations following^ viz.

In Camera Stellata coram Con-

cilio ibidem, vndecimo die Iulii,
Anno decimo tertio Caroli

Mprimis, That no perfon or perfons what
foeuer (hall prefume to print, or caufe to
bee printed, either in the parts beyond
the Seas, or in this Realme, or other his
Maiefties Dominions, any feditious, fcifma-
ticall, or offenfive Bookes or Pamphlets, to the fcandall
of Religion, or the Church, or the Government, or
Governours of the Church or State, or Commonwealth,
or of any Corporation, or particular perfon or perfons
whatfoeuer, nor (hall import any fuch Booke or Bookes,
nor fell or difpofe of them, or any of them, nor caufe
any fuch to be bound, ftitched, or fowed, vpon paine
that he or they fo offending, fhall loofe all fuch Bookes
and Pamphlets, and alfo haue, and fuffer fuch correction,
and fevere punifhment, either by Fine, imprifonment,
or other corporall punifhment, or otherwife, as by this
Court, or by His Maiefties Commifsioners for caufes
Ecclefiafticall in the high Commifsion Court, refpec-
tiuely, as the feveral caufes fhall require, fhall be
thought fit to be inflicted upon him, or them, for fuch
their offence and contempt.

II. Item, That no perfon or perfons whatfoeuer,
fhall at any time print or caufe to be imprinted, any
Booke or Pamphlet whatfoever, vnleffe the fame Booke

ro A I

nd alfo all and euery the Titles, Epiftles,
Prefaces, Proems, Preambles, Introductions, Tables
Dedications, and other matters and things whatfoeuer
thereunto annexed, or therewith imprinted, fhall be
lirtl lawfully licenced ami authorized onely by fuch
perfon and perfons as arc hereafter expreffed, and by
no other, and (hall be also firft entred into the Regiflers
Booke of the Company of Stationers ; vpon paine thai
euery Printer offending therein, fhall be for euer here-
after difabled to ufe or exercife the Art or Myflerie of
Printing, and receiue fuch further punifhment, as bythis
Court or the high Commifsion Court refpectiuely, as
the feverall caufes fhall require, fhall be thought fitting

III. Item, That all Bookes concerning the common
I. awes of this Reahne fhall be printed by the efpeciall
allowance of the Lords (hide Indices, and the Lord
chiefe Baron for the time being, or one or more of
them, or by their appointment ; And that all Looks of
Hiflory, belonging to this State, and prefent times, or
any other Booke of State affaires, fhall be licenced by
the principal! Secretaries of State, or one of them, or
by their appointment ; And that all Lookes concerning
Heraldry, Titles of Honour and Armes, or otherwife
concerning the Office of Earle Marfhall, fhall be licen-
ced by the Earle Marfhall, or by his appointment;
And further, that all other Books, whether of Diuinitie,
Phificke, Philofophie, Poetry, or whatfoeuer, fliall be
allowed by the Lord Arch -Bifliop of Canterbury, or
Bifliop of London for the time being, or by their appoint-
ment, or the Chancellours, or Vice Chancellors of either
of the Vinuerfities of this Realme for the time being.

Alwayes prouided, that the Chancellour or Vice-
Chancellour, of either of the Vniuerfities, fhall Licence
onely fuch Booke or Bookes that are to be Printed
within the limits of the Vniuerfities refpectiuely, but
not in London, or elfewhere, not medling either with
the common Law, or matters of State.

IV. Ttem y That euery perfon and perfons, which by
any Decree of this Court are, or fliall be appointed 01

of Star re- Chamber. 1 1

authorized to Licence Bookes, or giue Warrant for im-
printing thereof, as is aforefaid, fhall haue two feuerall
written Copies of the fame Booke or Bookes with the
Titles, Epiftles, Prefaces, Proems, Preambles, Intro-
ductions, Tables, Dedications, and other things what-
foeuer thereunto annexed. One of which faid Copies
(hall be kept in the publike Regiftries of the faid Lord
Arch-Bifhop, and Bifhop of London refpectiuely, or
in the Office of the Chancellour, or Vice-Chancellour
of either of the Vniuerfities, or with the Earle Marfhall,
or principall Secretaries of State, or with the Lords
chiefe Iuflices, or chiefe Baron, of all fuch Bookes as
(hall be licenfed by them refpectiuely, to the end that
he or they may be fecure, that the Copy fo licenfed by
him or them fhall not bee altered without his or their
priuitie, and the other fhall remain with him whofe
Copy it is, and vpon both the faid Copies, he or they
that fhall allow the faid Booke, (hall teftifie vnder his
or their hand or hands, that there is nothing in that
Booke or Books contained, that is contrary to Chris-
tian Faith, and the Doctrine and Difcipline of the
Church of England, nor againft the State or Gouern-
ment, nor contrary to good life, or good manners, or
otherwife, as the nature and fubiect of the work (hall
require, which licenfe or approbation fhall be im-
printed in the beginning of the fame Booke, with the
name, or names of him or them that fhall authorize or
licenfe the fame, for a teftimonie of the allowance thereof.
V. Item, That every Merchant of bookes, and per-
fon and perfons whatfoeuer, which doth, or hereafter
fhall buy, or import, or bring any booke or bookes
into this Realme, from any parts beyond the Seas,
fhall before fuch time as the fame book or books, or
any of them be deliuered forth, or out of his, or their
hand or hands, or expofed to fale, giue, and prefent
a true Catalogue in writing of all and euery fuch booke
and bookes vnto the Lord Arch-Bifhop of Canterbury,
or Lord Bifhop of London for the time being, vpon
paine to haue and fuffer fuch punifhment for offending

i _• ./ Decret

herein, .1- bj this Court, or by the (aid high Com-
DiUsion Court refpectiuely, as the feueral caufes fhaU
require, ihall be thought fitting.

\ I. Item, That ii" Merchant, or other perfon or
perfons whatfoeuer, which fhall import or bring any
Look or books into the kingdome, from any parts
beyond the Seas, fhall prefume to open any Dry-fats,
Bales, Maunds, or other Fardals of books, or

wherein books are ; nor fhall any Sear* her, Wayter, or
other Officer belonging to the Cuflome-houfe, vpon

pain of looting his or their place or places, hitter the
lame to paffe, or to be deliuered out of their hands or
cuflody, before fuch time as the Lord Arch-Bifhop of
Canterbury, or Lord Bifliop of London, or one of them

for the time being, haue appointed one of their Chap-
lains, or fome other learned man, with the Mailer and
Wardens- of the Company of Stationers, or one of
them, and fuch others as they fhall call to their afsift-
an< e, to he prefent at the opening thereof, and to view
the fame : And if there fhall happen to be found
any feditious, fchifmaticall or offenfiue booke or
bookes, they fhall forthwith be brought vnto the faid
Lord Arch-bifhop of Canterbury, Lord Bifliop of London
for the time being, or one of them, or to the High
Commifsion Office, to the end that as well the offendor
or offendors may be punifhed by the Court of Star
Chamber, or the high Commifsion Court refpectiuely,
as the feuerall caufes fliall require, according to his or
their demerit; as alfo that fuch further courfe and
order ma}- be taken concerning the fame booke or
bookes, as fliall bee thought fitting.

VII. Ltem, That no perfon or perfons fliall within
this Kingdome, or elfewhere imprint, or caufe to be im-
printed, nor fliall import or bring in, or caufe to be
imported or brought into this Kingdome, from, or out
of any other J I i-, Maiefties Dominions, nor from other,
or any parts beyond the Seas, any Copy, book or
books, or part of any booke or bookes, printed beyond
the feas, or elfewhere, which the faid Company of

of Starre-Chamber. 13

Stationers, or any other perfon or perfons haue, or
fhall by any Letters Patents, Order, or Entrance in
their Regifler book, or otherwife, haue the right,
priuiledge, authoritie, or allowance foly to print, nor
(hall bind, flitch, or put to fale, any fuch booke or
bookes, vpon paine of" loffe and forfeiture of all the
faid bookes, and of fuch Fine, or other punifhment,
for euery booke or part of a booke fo imprinted or
imported, bound, ftitched, or put to fale, to be leuyed
of the party fo offending, as by the power of this
Court, or the high Commifsion Court refpectiuely, as
the feverall caufes fhall require, fhall be thought fit.

VIII. Item, Euery perfon and perfons that fhall
hereafter Print, or caufe to be Printed, any Bookes,
Ballads, Charts, Portraiture, or any other thing or
things whatfoeuer, fhall thereunto or thereon Print and
fet his and their owne name or names, as alfo the
name or names of the Author or Authors, Maker or
Makers of the fame, and by, or for whom any fuch
booke, or other thing is, or fhall be printed, vpon pain
of forfiture of all fuch Books, Ballads, Chartes, Por-
traitures, and other thing or things, printed contrary
to this Article ; And the preffes, Letters and other
inflruments for Printing, wherewith fuch Books, bal-
lads, Chartes, Portraitures, and other thing or things
fhall be printed, to be defaced and made vnferuiceable,
and the party and parties fo offending, to be fined,
imprifoned and haue fuch other corporall punifhment,
or otherwife, as by this Honourable Court, or the faid
high Commifsion refpectiuely, as the feuerall caufes
fhall require, fhall be thought fit.

IX. Item, That no perfon or perfons whatfoeuer,
fhall hereafter print, or caufe to be printed, or fhall
forge, put, or counterfeit in, or vpon any booke or
books, the name, title, marke or vinnet of the Com-
pany or Society of Stationers, or of any particular
perfon or perfons, which hath or fhall haue lawfull
priuiledge, authoritie, or allowance to print the fame,
without the confent of the faid Company, or party or

14 .7 /

parties that are or thai] be fo priuiledged, authorized,
or allowed to print the lame booke or books, thing or
things, t'iril had and obtained, vpon paine that euery
perfon or perfons fo offending, (hall not onelyloofe all books and other things, but fhall alfo haue, and
fuffer fuch punifhment, by imprifonment of his body,
fine, orotherwife, as by this Honourable Court, or high
I mifeionCourtrefpe«Sliuely,asthefeuerallcaufesfhall

require, it lhall be to him or them limited or adiudged.

\ //

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Online LibraryJohn MiltonAreopagitica. (24 November) 1644 ; preceded by illustrative documents → online text (page 1 of 7)