Areopagitica Archaeology

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Aers, David and Gunther Kress. "Historical Process, Individuals and Communities in Milton's Areopagitica." In Literature, Language and Society in England, 1580-1680. Totowa: Barnes & Noble, 1981.
Armstrong, Nancy and Leonard Tennenhouse. The Imaginary Puritan: Literature, Intellectual Labor, and the Origins of Personal Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
Cable, Lana. Carnal Rhetoric: Milton's Iconoclasm and the Poetics of Desire. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.
Cope, Bill and Angus Phillips, eds. The Future of the Book in the Digital Age. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2006.
Duguid, Paul. "Limits of Self-Organization: Peer Production and 'Laws of Quality'." First Monday 11.10(October 2006).
Euripides, Suppliant Women
Ferguson, Margaret W. and Mary Nyquist, eds. Re-membering Milton: Essays on the Texts and Traditions. New York: Methuen, 1988.
Fraistat, Neil and Elizabeth Bergmann Loizeaux. "The Impossibility of Visual Textuality." Text. 16 (2006): 243-248.
Fish, Stanley. "Driving from the Letter: Truth and Indeterminacy in Milton's Areopagitica." How Milton Works. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001. 187-214.
Kirschenbaum, Matthew. "Editor's Introduction: Image-Based Humanities Computing." Computers and the Humanities 36.1 (February 2002): 3-6.
Kolbrener, William. Milton's Warring Angels: A Study of Critical Engagements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Loewenstein, David. "Areopagitica and the Dynamics of History." SEL 28 (1988): 77-93.
Loewenstein, Joseph. The Author's Due: Printing and the Prehistory of Copyright. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
McGann, Jerome. "Dialogue and Interpretation at the Interface of Man and Machine: Reflections on Textuality and a Proposal for an Experiment in Machine Reading." Computers and the Humanities 36.1 (February 2002): 95-107.
Milton, Areopagitica
Norbrook, David. "Areopagitica, Censorship, and the Early Modern Public Sphere." The Administration of Aesthetics: Censorship, Political Criticism, and the Public Sphere. Ed. Richard Burt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 3-33.
Rovira, James. "Gathering the Scattered Body of Milton's Areopagitica." REN 57.2 (Winter 2005): 87-102.
Viscomi, Joseph. "Digital Facsimiles: Reading the William Blake Archive." Computers and the Humanities. 36.1 (February 2002): 27-48.

The "literary" -- has always been a function of technology; DH brings media and technologies of production into the forefront of inquiry


Search for a print edition of John Milton's Areopagitica, and one of the first returns is this, English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica by Edward Arber: [1]

Existing only as a set of metadata in Amazon's database, this "edition" has been automatically assembled using BiblioLife software that searches Google Books, EEBO, ECCO, and Project Gutenberg for free literature. If the work found is plain text text, perhaps generated by OCRing a Google Books scan, then the program automatically reformats it for publication; if found as a scan, as this text was, then the software gathers the images into a facsimile reprint.1 My one-click electronic purchase then sets in motion a print-on-demand (POD) process that will transform this digital information into a gathered and glued book, sent directly to my stoop. From letterpress-printed paper to celluloid film to metadata-encrusted digital scan to database entry and back to paper, English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica is a Frankenstein of mediated materialities, stitched together by software and revitalized from skeleton metadata back to bookish existence.

English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica is not the only, or even the oddest, of its kind. A search of returns dozens of Areopagiticas purchasable by print-on-demand, including Areopagitica (Volume 1); 24 November 1644: Preceded by Illustrative Documents (another bot-generated text with corrupt metadata), and the Little Humanist Classics edition, which ironically substitutes so-called sexist pronouns with HU, HUS and HUM. While the dominant strain of literary Digital Humanities has emphasized the production of more "radiant" (in the words of Jerome McGann) or "fluid" (John Bryant) digital archives, these POD Frankensteins represent its underbelly: a monstrous "digital" "edition" produced not by scholarly experts, as with (for instance) the grant-funded Milton Reading Room, but by commercial bots trolling the web. It is the task of Digital Humanities to understand the latter as much as the former.

As a case study that sits at the nexus of book history, media studies and Digital Humanities, these zombie editions bring questions of methodology and material history to the forefront of humanities computing. For if digital editions and archives have shown us that the category of "the literary" is always/already a function of technology, these monstrous Miltons make clear that technology is equally a function of its social and historical circumstances. As such, new media platforms are not only expanding (our notion of) literary texts, but dragging the residue of the past into the present, where the accretions of history demand new archaeological methods of analysis. I take this statement as more than metaphor: indeed, while my university's library has dutifully shuffled its copy of Arber's original 1869 edition to an off-site storage facility, English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica has put it, quite literally, back into my hands. Moreover, once the absent, out-of-print original is revived as a one-off POD printing, it re-enters the digital ecology that spawned it, such that the very same facsimile BiblioLife's bot pulled from the web is now back on Google Books – but listed as "COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL." Excavating these dense layers of authorship, publishing, copyright law, and media in these POD Areopagiticas thus carves out a path for historicizing a field that tends to overemphasize the future while, more importantly, highlighting what literature always has been: a maze of imaginative moments and mediated interactions between readers, institutions, and physical objects.


compares books to meats; each man will have to judge for himself whether they are bad (165)

"I conceive therefore, that when God did enlarge the universall diet of mans body, saving ever the rules of temperance, he then also, as before, left arbitrary the dyeting and repasting of our minds; as wherein every mature man might have to exercise his owne leading capacity." (165)

claims virtue comes from knowing vice

  • "He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian." (167)
  • Spenser referenced -- Guyon goes through the bower of bliss "that he might see and know, and yet abstain" (167)
  • "Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read." (167)
  • "to all men such [bad] books are not temptations nor vanities, but useful drugs and materials wherewith to temper and compose effective and strong medicines, which man's life cannot want" (170)

whole world of experience / perception forms our personal "book"

"And albeit whatever thing we hear or see, sitting, walking, travelling, or conversing may be fitly call'd our book, and is of the same effect that writings are, yet grant the thing to be prohibited were only books, it appears that this order hitherto is far insufficient to the end which it intends." (175)

English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica

Original (probably -- check type impressions?) scan:

An 1868 edition from Google Books:

Amazon listing:

English Reprints Jhon Milton Areopagitica later put back on Google Books, with limited preview -- since it's now under the purview of BiblioLife

  • "Copyrighted material" in the bottom right corner; usually refers to text, but here refers to the actual material -- text is out of copyright, scan probably isn't

stock photo of cover also used here: and here:

Areopagitica (Volume 1); 24 November 1644: Preceded by Illustrative Documents

Amazon listing:

  • "Look inside!" feature doesn't go to the correct edition; says its OCRd text, but goes to BiblioLife facsimile edition
  • Reviews, though, show that the OCRd edition is from the "Little Humanist" series

Hard to find "Little Humanist Classics" series -- this lists it as an imprint of Bandanna books and Classics + Me

"Forgotten Books" reprint

Internet Archive scan used to produce it:

on Clarendon Press Series:


Expresso book machine:

Many, many, many books on self-publishing; "vanity" publishing, stigma attached; see Jeremy Robinson, POD People -- book on overcoming the stigma of POD publishing

Publishing history -- search 19/20c editions in Duke special collections

Milton's commonplace book

Areopagiticus, Isocrates

library inscriptions of Milton:

on Bibliolabs + EEBO + BL, etc.:

search BIBLIOLABS in email

UNESCO project: Crossing Media Boundaries: Adaptations and New Media Forms of the Book

"The circuit, not the past, is where media archaeology starts if we want to develop a more concrete design-oriented version of how e can think about recycling and remediating as art methods. ... What does a media archaeology of consumer objects look like when we do not go back in time to media history, but inside a device?" (Parikka and Hertz)

Edit notes

see Tribble 1993, 141 -- Jonson on embodiedness of book/text