“The Precious Life-Blood of a Master Spirit”

While the trees on Avenue Louis Pasteur are still relatively leafless, you can get a good view of the quotation on the side of the library building: “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit.”Image of the outside of the Emmanuel College Library

If you recognized John Milton as the author of these words, give yourself a pat on the back! The line comes out of his 1644 prose work Areopagitica: A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing to the Parliament of England, which is now read primarily for its defense of freedom of the press.

Here’s the full sentence in context:

…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. ‘Tis true, no age can restore a life, whereof perhaps there is no great loss; and revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.

You can read the full text in Areopagitica, and Of Education; with Autobiographical Passages from Other Prose Works, available in the Emmanuel Main Stacks or online at Project Gutenberg and Bartleby.com.


~ Erica Jensen, Reference Librarian


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