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to the earth; but a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, imbalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life. It is 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. We should be wary therefore what persecution we raise against the living labors of public men, how we spill" that seasoned life of man preserved and stored up in books; since we see a kind of homicide may be thus committed, sometimes a martyrdom, and if it extend to the whole impression, a kind of massacre, whereof the execution ends not in the slaying of an elemental15 life, but strikes at that ethereal and fifth essence,16 the breath of reason itself, slays an immortality rather than a life. But lest I should be condemned of introducing license, while I oppose licensing, I refuse not the pains to be so much historical, as will serve to show what has been done by ancient and famous commonwealths, against this disorder, till the very time that this project of licensing crept out of the Inquisition, was caught up by our prelates, and hath caught some of our presbyters.
In Athens where books and wits were ever busier than in any other part of Greece, I find but only two sorts of writings which the magistrate cared to take notice of; those either blasphemous and atheistical, or libelous. Thus the books of Protagoras were by the judges of Areopagus commanded to be burnt, and himself banished the territory for a discourse begun with his confessing not to know whether there were gods, or whether not: And against defaming, it was decreed that none should be traduced by name, as was the manner of Vetus Comedia," whereby we may guess how they censured libeling: And this course was quick enough, as Cicero writes, to quell both the desperate wits of other atheists, and the open way of defaming, as the event showed. Of other sects and opinions though tending to voluptuousness, and the denying of divine providence they took no heed. Therefore we do not read that either Epicurus, or that libertine school of Cyrene, or what the Cynic impudence uttered, was ever questioned by the laws. Neither is it re14 Destroy. 15 Material. 16 Spiritual element. 17 The old Attic comedy, e. g.,
corded that the writings of those old comedians were suppressed, though the acting of them were forbidden; and that Plato commended the reading of Aristophanes the loosest of them all, to his royal scholar Dionysius, is commonly known, and may be excused, if holy Chrysostome, as is reported, nightly studied so much the same author and had the art to cleanse a scurrilous vehemence into the style of a rousing sermon. That other leading city of Greece, Lacedæmon, considering that Lycurgus their law-giver was so addicted to elegant learning, as to have been the first that brought out of Ionia the scattered works of Homer, and sent the poet Thales from Crete to prepare and mollify the Spartan surliness with his smooth songs and odes, the better to plant among them law and civility, it is to be wondered how museless18 and unboogish they were, minding naught but the feats of war. There needed no licensing of books among them for they disliked all, but their own Laconic Apothegms, and took a slight occasion to chase Archilochus out of their city, perhaps for composing in a higher strain than their own soldierly ballads and roundelays could reach to: Or if it were for his broad verses, they were not therein so cautious, but they were as dissolute in their promiscuous conversing," whence Euripides affirms in Andromache, that their women were all unchaste. Thus much may give us light after what sort books were prohibited among the Greeks. The Romans also for many ages trained up only to a military roughness, resembling most of the Lacedæmonian guise, knew of learning little but what their twelve tables, and the Pontific college with their Augurs and Flamins taught them in religion and law, so unacquainted with other learning, that when Carneades and Critolaus, with the Stoic Diogenes coming ambassadors to Rome, took thereby occasion to give the city a taste of their philosophy, they were suspected for seducers by no less a man than Cato the censor, who moved it in the senate to dismiss them speedily, and to banish all such Attic babblers out of Italy. But Scipio and others of the noblest senators withstood him and his old Sabine austerity; honored and admired the men; and the censor himself at last in his old age fell to the study of that whereof before he was so scrupulous. And yet at the same time Nævius and Plautus 18 Inartistic. 19 Intercourse.
the first Latin comedians had filled the city with all the borrowed scenes of Menander and Philemon. Then began to be considered there also what was to be done to libelous books and authors; for Nævius was quickly cast into prison for his unbridled pen, and released by the Tribunes upon his recantation: We read also that libels were burned, and the makers punished by Augustus. The like severity no doubt was used if aught were impiously written against their esteemed gods. Except in these two points, how the world went in books, the magistrate kept no reckoning. And therefore Lucretius without impeachment versifies his epicurism to Memmius, and had the honor to be set forth the second time by Cicero so great a father of the commonwealth; although himself disputes against that opinion in his own writings. Nor was the satirical sharpness, or naked plainness of Lucilius, or Catullus, or Flaccus, by any order prohibited. And for matters of state, the story of Titius Livius, though it extolled that part which Pompey held, was not therefore suppressed by Octavius Cæsar of the other faction. But that Naso was by him banished in his old age, for the wanton poems of his youth, was but a mere covert of state over some secret cause: and besides, the books were neither banished nor called in. From hence we shall meet with little else but tyranny in the Roman empire, that we may not marvel, if not so often bad, as good books were silenced. I shall therefore deem to have been large enough in producing what among the ancients was punishable to write, save only which, all other arguments were free to treat on.
By this time the emperors were become Christians, whose discipline in this point I do not find to have been more severe than what was formerly in practise. The books of those whom they took to be grand heretics were examined, refuted, and condemned in the general counsels; and not till then were prohibited, or burned by authority of the emperor. As for the writings of heathen authors, unless they were plain invectives against Christianity, as those of Porphyrius and Proclus, they met with no inderdict that can be cited, till about the year 400, in a Carthaginian council, wherein bishops themselves were forbidden to read the books of Gentiles, but heresies they might read: while others long before them on the contrary scrupled more the books of heretics, than of Gentiles. And
that the primitive councils and bishops were wont only to declare what books were not commendable, passing no further, but leaving it to each one's conscience to read or to lay by, till after the year 800 is observed already by Padre Paolo the great unmasker of the Trentine Council. After which time the Popes of Rome engrossing what they pleased of political rule into their own hands, extended their dominion over men's eyes, as they had before over their judgments, burning and prohibiting to be read, what they fancied not; yet sparing in their censures, and the books not many which they so dealt with: till Martin V by his bull not only prohibited, but was the first that excommunicated the reading of heretical books; for about that time Wyclif and Huss growing terrible, were they who first drove the papal court to a stricter policy of prohibiting. Which course Leo X, and his successors followed, until the Council of Trent, and the Spanish inquisition engendering together brought forth, or perfected those catalogues, and expurging indexes that rake through the entrails of many an old good author, with a violation worse than any could be offered to his tomb. Nor did they stay in matters heretical, but any subject that was not to their palate, they either condemned in a prohibition, or had it straight into the new purgatory of an index. To fill up the measure of encroachment, their last invention was to ordain that no book, pamphlet, or paper should be printed (as if St. Peter had bequeathed them the keys of the press also out of Paradise) unless it were approved and licensed under the hands of two or three glutton friars. For example:
Let the Chancellor Cini be pleased to see if in this present work be contained ought that may withstand20 the printing.
Vincent Rabatta, Vicar of Florence.
I have seen this present work, and find nothing athwart the Catholic faith and good manners: in witness whereof I have given,
Nicolò Cini, Chancellor of Florence.
Attending the precedent relation, it is allowed that this present work of Davanzati may be printed,
It may be printed, July 15.
Vincent Rabbatta, etc.
Friar Simon Mompei d'Amelia, Chancellor of the holy office in Florence.
Sure they have a conceit, if he of the bottomless pit had not long since broke prison, that this quadruple exorcism would bar him down. I fear their next design will be to get into their custody the licensing of that which they say Claudius intended, but went not through with. Vouchsafe to see another of their forms the Roman stamp:
Imprimatur,21 if it seem good to the reverend master of the holy palace,
Belcastro, Vicegerent. Imprimatur, Friar Nicolò Rodolphi, Master of the holy palace.
Sometimes five Imprimaturs are seen together dialogue-wise in the Piatza of one title-page, complimenting and ducking each to other with their shaven reverences, whether the author, who stands by in perplexity at the foot of his epistle, shall to the press or to the sponge. These are the pretty responsories, these are the dear antiphonies that so bewitched of late our prelates, and their chaplains with the goodly echo they made; and besotted us to the gay imitation of the lordly Imprimatur, one from Lambeth house,22 another from the West end of Pauls,23 so apishly Romanizing, that the word of command still was set down in Latin; as if the learned grammatical pen that wrote it, would cast no ink without Latin; or perhaps, as they thought, because no vulgar tongue was worthy to express the pure conceit of an Imprimatur; but rather, as I hope, for that our English, the language of men ever famous, and foremost in the achievements of liberty, will not easily find servile letters enough to spell such a dictatorie24 presumption English. And thus ye have the inventors and the original of book-licensing ripped up, and drawn as lineally as any pedigree. We have it not, that can 21 Let it be printed (Latin). 22 Residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 23 Where the Bishop of London formerly lived. 24 Dictatorial.