Friday, August 23, 2013

The Life of a Book - Milton

One of my favorite passages in 'Areopagitica' is when Milton speaks of why we must be careful when 'confine' or 'imprison' books, as is the case when we censor them.
For 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.
That's exactly right.  When an author pours his intellect into a book, it is a reflection of the author's intellect or soul.  When that author pours his very best, then it is of the purest soul.  He continues:
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 the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.
That's a quote for the ages right there.

Nearly twenty years ago, I first read a book by Umberto Eco called 'The Name of the Rose' and it blew me away.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.  [SPOILER ALERT]  The book is largely set around a medieval library and at that climax of the story it goes up in a conflagration.  After I read the book, I passed it on to my dad and he also loved it.  We talked about this scene and he talked about how it was like a punch to the gut.  All of the monks, all of the other characters in the book were long gone and worm food by the time the book was written.  The books however could have lived forever if they'd survived.  Unfortunately, they were lost, some of them certainly the only copies left.  The world was left much poorer because of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment