Click to view higher-resolution image

John Milton (1608–1674).
Areopagitica; A Speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England.
London: [s.n.], 1644.

In 1643, after a brief period of uncensored printing in England, the Presbyterian majority in the Parliament reinstated mandatory licensing as a means of censoring books before publication. That same year, church authorities ensured that the poet John Milton was refused a license to publish a controversial essay in favor of the right to divorce. In response, Milton composed the pamphlet entitled Areopagitica (after the ancient Athenian court of Areopagus), considered by many to be the most eloquent defense of the freedom of the press ever written. Defiantly published without license, Milton’s pamphlet calls for the “liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience,” observing that “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself.”