Describe the purpose and context of the following words written by John Milton in the mid-1600's:  "Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book,...

Describe the purpose and context of the following words written by John Milton in the mid-1600's:  "Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself. . . ."?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The English writer John Milton penned these words in a self-published pamphlet entitled Areopagitica, which appeared in 1644 as a vociferous argument against Parliament's Licensing Order of 1643, in which the governing body sought to wrestle control of the nation's censorship regulations from the monarchy.  There were four main components of the Licensing Order, including a requirement that authors and publishers/printers pre-license their work prior to publication, register it formally upon publication, be subjected to search, seizure, and possible destruction of their written materials should these materials be deemed offensive to the government, and possibly be arrested and imprisoned as well. 

Written over a hundred years before the American Revolution, which would bring England's censorship woes, among other things, to the forefront once again, Milton's tract is viewed by many as one of the most, if not the most, articulate, lyrical, and persuasive arguments against censorship ever written. 

The quote above is well-known in literary circles, as is the following, also taken from Areopagitica, and inscribed above the main reading room of the New York Public Library: "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."

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