A significant agent in the creation of the ‘public sphere’ was the introduction of printing and pamphlet culture. This was ultimately due to the wealth of information EVERYONE could engage in starting in 1640′s, voices once invisible finally able to be heard, ultimately the public against that of the parliament, often materializing in politcal and religious movements, and people able to explore the self in relation to God with the decreased reliance on scripture. Challenging the authority with intimate knowledge and intellectual apparatus now public, it created a chance for false truths, suspicions and a great chance for anxiety. Nonetheless, it supported/advanced the idea that readership is for everyone. Milton, regardless of all that came from printing, good or bad, was interested in truth. People who didn’t want this honesty didn’t win, such as the Parliament, as the doors were already opened.Tying together polemic, scolorship, and philosophical reflection, and observing the boundaries of debate, Milton focused on reason attached to eloquent arguments, rather than reserved speech. Recognizing that the ‘public sphere’ was now a prominent part of culture, he rode along the theme of honesty and only spoke the truth, sometimes harsh truth. However, it was hard for many people to believe Milton as he was ingenuine in his arguments with the rhetorical flair. This presented a conflict. Milton adamently believed that the entire public should read and benefit from his works, as he believed everybody equally capable as human beings, but with the level of his writing, super-eloquent and satirical, there was an expectency that all his readers were as ‘learned’ as he–with the prose of brilliant rhythm, elaborate and dense rhetrorical devices, and sinewy metaphors that only the highly educated could bear meaning from. Despite the lack of audience approval, he stuck with his belief that the best means of persuasion was reason mixed with ‘coersive eloquence.’ There were differing views on honesty at the time in this new ‘public sphere,’ as many people believed there was no such text with the wholehearted truth, and that one can come to more truth by seeing falsehood. Ultimately, the truth stirring with lie in this new public sphere, mostly due to pamphlet culture, allowed for a form of healthy dialogue with the voice and opinion from people looking outside of what they only once knew in their private lives.
This was posted on Saturday-as seen in on the main blog page. I moved it here today to go under the actual reading category.
Joad Raymond’s article “The Literature of Controversy” aligns Milton’s development as an author with the changes in printing and publishing. Thinking back to the beginning of the semester, I had no idea that Milton took such a long break between writing his juvenilia and his later epic poems – a span of around twenty years in which he wrote only handful of sonnets. During this time, Milton instead focused on writing political prose tracts, often for propagandistic purposes. However, since it’s Milton, he did not simply write pamphlets – in the words of Raymond, “his first pamphlets were extended, sophisticated pieces” (201), Milton clearly demarcating himself from the large majority of frivolous or gossipy pamphlets that saturated the market in this period. Milton, it could be said, furthered the medium of printing in that he actually wrote intelligent, cogent arguments that the learned then read. He did not single-handedly revolutionize the printing process, but he had a part in classing it up a bit. As Raymond writes, “Milton singled out small books as precisely the medium through which truth could unpredictably emerge” (202), which is further evidence of Milton’s dedication to this type of publication, and why he spent so many years devoted to the writing and manufacturing of multiple tracts.
However, when many people hear the name Milton, they immediately think of his famous epics like Paradise Lost or Paradise Regained. I would bet that not many even know Milton wrote prose tracts – before this class, I certainly did not. Were those twenty years of hiatus from poetry all for naught, then? I do not think so, as the skills he learned in his prose writing certainly carried over into his poetry. Take, for instance, Sonnet XVIII – “The Massacre at Piedmont”, which was written while Oliver Cromwell was in power, and almost certainly contributed to the nation’s political/religious outraged reaction against the event. The poem declares the Catholic Church as the enemy to God, and allies Britain with the slaughtered Waldensians. Through this kind of rhetoric and maneuvering, Milton perfected the skills he would need to write his later epics and, in the process, penned some convincing and relevant (even today) arguments about education, marriage, and politics.
I found it extremely intriguing, reading Raymond, that literary pamphlets embodied the first form of what we know as the newspaper. (Simultaneously in Dickinson’s history, this week I found out that The Dickinsonian was originally operated by the Belle Letres literary society.) I couldn’t help but draw connections between Milton’s tendency to write as an occasional poet, and his transition into writing persuasive pamphlets on current events. It seems that he said to himself, if I’m not writing poetry pertaining to the issues of England, my prose should surely take its place.
Also, Milton always draws a thin line between what is true and false, as throughout his poetry and prose he articulates that truth and falsehood come from essentially the same place. The truth would emerge out of small pamphlets through “wrestling with falsehood,” but falsehood would still be spread. This is something that continues with Areopagitica: Although at first it seems as if Milton is condemning censorship as a whole, he is merely drawing that same line, such that censorship of TRUE poetry is a crime, whereas censoring what Milton considers poor poetry is necessary.
One aspect of Milton’s career that we keep coming back to in class discussions is the concept of self creation through his work, the idea that Milton was consciously fashioning an image of himself to his readership by inserting himself and his ideals into his work (sometimes quite overtly, and sometimes more subtly.) Parallel to this idea of self-fashioning is the idea of fashioning a specific readership. Raymond’s article highlighted Milton’s views on his ideal reader, someone who was educated and willing to “wrestle” with truth and falsehood in what they were reading in order to create firmer and deeper beliefs and opinions. Like he did in his creation of self through writing, Milton was able to choose/form his readership through his writing style. Although his form of publication was, in a sense, highly accessible to the general literate public, his high academic writing style which dealt with complex subjects, religious controversies and mythical allusions. His choice to write in an accessible form, but in an inaccessible style is an interesting one. In some ways, his ability to create the readership he desired, one that would wrestle with both truth (presumable his own writing) and the myriad other accessible publications (salacious gossip, polemic arguments that focused more on personal attacks than any real issues, and general propaganda.) Without the free press, which enabled Milton’s work to be read in opposition to other beliefs and gave him a wider range of possible readers, Milton’s attempt to choose the type of audience he desired may have been impossible.
In the reading assigned for this week, John Milton believed that through the pamphlets created by the Printing Press, the truth within the time period would come out to the public. In a way Milton viewed the work of the Press as something positive. However, with the truth being conveyed through the pamphlets to many different audiences, this caused many problems. The pamphlets contained scandals, oddities, propaganda, all the information they provided began to evoke a response from people. Many Individuals had a right to have a voice about the printing press. The pamphlets had a positive effect because they informed everyone about what was occurring around them. The people were also able to be updated with news circulating within the town; however, the problem was too much information was being exposed. Information about peoples personal lives was being spread widely. Further, peoples privacy was being jeopardized. Eventually, this issue would lead to the question of free speech within the press. I believe that the reason why the printing press needed to be licensed was simply because if no one were to monitor what was being posted publicly wrong information would continuously be spread to the general public. This could in turn result in people revolting against the press. John Milton was right when he said, “Believed truth would emerge through small books, but they could also spread falsehood”(p.202-203). Spreading false information could give the public the urge to lash back against the press for spreading falsehood. This explicitly demonstrates the power the medium had. If writers were to trust their work to be published through press, they had to ensure that they were aware of what work was being published and that the material was valid. Parliament mandated what was published through the press due to its powerful nature and affect on peoples personal lives, while still allowing it to maintain its readers.
The book that Kennisha and I were looking at was a collection of Milton’s prose that was printed in 1676. The book itself was quite small; not quite the size of the palm of my hand, and relatively thin. It was printed on sturdy cotton based paper with the edges dyed red, and had several of the classic indicators of old books that we discussed on class (signatures and guide letters.)
Other than looking at the physical attributes of the book, we spent the majority of our time in the archives trying to decipher the significance of the title page.
The aspect of the book that made it most difficult to understand is the fact that it is written in Latin, and the typeface was a bit ambiguous in places. Looking at the page itself, the biggest word is “Cromwelii,” so it is clear that the publisher thinks it is most important that a reader know that the collection is connected to Oliver Cromwell (more important than who wrote the pieces in the book.) The date of publication, as stated at the bottom of the page, is 1676, 18 years after the death of Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and the subsequent reinstatement of the Monarchy in 1660. Clearly, the political climate had changed since Milton wrote and originally published the prose, so the audience that was receiving this specific publication was markedly different from those for whom he had written it. The full title of the book is Literae Pseudo-Senatus Anglicanus Cromwelii, Reliquorumque Perduellium nomine ae jussu conscripte a Joanne Miltono. Using a Latin to English dictionary and a little bit of creativity (guesswork, really), Kennisha and I deciphered the title’s meaning as ” The false English Literature of the Cromwellian era, published in the order it was Written by the Treasonous Public Enemy, John Milton.” If this is the case, or at least if our translation is reasonably close, then it would appear that this collection of Milton’s prose was published as a criticism of both Milton and the Commonwealth under Cromwell.
Behind the glass cabinets in the Archives is where one would find “Cromwell II” written by John Milton. This small book has been preserved for a long time by the college. The book itself along with other historical items, is kept in a 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to maintain the condition of the book. The use of temperature also helps to keep mold from forming in the pages. Besides the small size of the book it also has a leather cover which is made out of cat skin. The pages felt like they were made out of cotton. When placing your index finger and thumb together while holding the pages one can feel the softness of the page. Some of the writing on the pages was spaced out while other sentences were crammed together. The space and starting point of the sentences demonstrated how the printing press started would print several pages, they had to make sure they went back and create space for a new sentence. The spacing was a way for the press to create room in order to place the rest of the information on the page. Based on the height and width of the book the edge, seems as if it is a vingesimo-quarto.The border of the pages was a reddish coloring, and the book was held together by green thread on the top and bottom of the borders.Also located on the bottom of each page I noticed there was letters which replaced page numbers. The letters represent the machine where each letter was printed from and collected by each different member that worked in the section of the press. Eventually the book would be put together after all the information was completely printed.What I found interesting from our discussion in class was that within this book there were numbers located on the top of the page, and they were in consecutive order, unlike the pages discussed in class that were not in numerical order.
What I discovered made this small book so unique was that the entire book was written in Latin. The Latin made it impossible to read unless one knew how to read in Latin or was provided with a Latin dictionary to help with translation of the text. This made me think about how Milton wrote a large amount of prose and poems for his readers to read,however, it sometimes seemed as if he did not always want everyone to be able to read it. Located inside the the book, my attention was focused on the back of the cover, which contain a crest symbol. Inscribed on the symbol it read” vincit anor patriae” which I found out means” love of country conquer”. My partner and I were debating on whether or not it could have been a symbol representing his family so that caused us to examine the title and the Latin sentence written underneath the title. Since Cromwell II was the biggest word on the page that made us first focus our attention on Oliver Cromwell. We figured that maybe the crest symbol was a reference to Cromwell’s life and how he lived. Without using judgment we tried to translate the sentence that was written in Latin. The sentence stated “ Reliquorumque Perduellium nomine ac juffu confcriptae” which, translated in to English meaning “ the orders of the foe written by John Milton”. The connection of this small book was finally revealed, for this book was as a false English literature which was written during the Oliver Cromwell era. The book was published in the order that it was written by the treason public enemy, John Milton. Cromwell during this time was a ruler and a great man of strength and power. He was able to defeat King Charles I during the English Civil War. After that he became “lord protector” and he was the ruler of the English Commonwealth. After Cromwell died the land was taken over and ruled by his son Richard, who unfortunately lost the land. Eventually, the monarchy was re-established. Milton seems to be focusing on Cromwell , because of the strength that he had and his bravery, he was able to fight for his land like the other monarchs before his time, unlike his son who failed at the first chance of defending his land.
I learned today that it is one thing to look at a book and judge it by the cover but, it is another thing to open a small book such as this one and from just looking at the cover page you learn about the history contained inside the book.
Colin & Emilie – Aereopagitica
1. Cover – Waxy, off-white beige/cream, almost discolored. Possible water damage? Too much glue? Strong possibility of vellum, bent because this type of binding is very sensitive to climates.
Binding – Case, cloth binding. Vellum. Reduction of color covers and excess decoration due to pre-war restrictions. Sewed on tape.
Board – Not sure if this book has a board, different for paperback? No board, simply adhesive.
Endpapers – Endpapers are blank, with the exception of the letter ‘a’ on one of the beginning pages, which may be part of a signature. Possibly extra pages due to printing choices. Maybe these blank pages were left in the bound book so that a loose, single leaf of some image could be added. Signatures – Signature is comprised of the alphabet spread sporadically throughout the text, every few pages. These letters indicated the arrangement of folding in the printing press. Quires.
Size – Not large, but not very small. Almost pocket size, this edition could have been a travel size as opposed to remaining in a library.
Paper – The paper is deckle edged, which was probably intentional because paper cutting technology existed to do this. Improved paper quality.
Type – Large type, easy to read, words are closer together. The beginning of the text is larger, slightly cursive, a possible nod to previous and excessive beginnings. Footnotes are large and inclusive in the text.
Pagination – Page numbers are indicated on the bottom right of the right page, and the bottom left of left pages. Signature takes a more central role.
2. The title pages emerge after several endpapers. These pages might have also been added to increase the thickness of the book and get rid of excess paper in the printing shop. The printing press may have also overestimated the amount of pages needed and so added excess pages simply because they had them.
3. From the title page, we learn that this book was printed in order to make Milton’s text available to the greater public. The name of the text, the author, and the intended audience are all equally big and therefore assume equal importance. Below, in slightly smaller text, is a quotation in Greek followed by its English translation. It is important to note that the Greek appears first, indicating that this text was meant for an educated audience who would recognize the language.
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