He is referring to the highest element of a human being: the
spirit that is never born and never dies.
Milton goes on,
"embalmed and treasured".
By ‘embalmed’, he probably alludes to the publishing of the
book because when it was being written, it had a life as it was
amended, reviewed, revised and improved by the author and then
edited and published or embalmed by the publisher ‘on purpose’.
The purpose or the aim of a good book is to be available ‘to
a life beyond life’.
This is very apt as most books are valid for a few weeks,
months or years but good books outlive their authors by many
The scriptures are very much alive even after thousands of
The classics have an eternal life of their own spanning
Thus, Milton brings spirituality into his definition of a
Milton knew what he was talking about because he wrote a
classic 23 years later in 1667, ‘Paradise Lost’ the epic
poem in blank verse that is read to this day.
The poem portrays the story from the Bible about the
temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen angel and their
expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Milton not only described what is a good book, he also wrote
This quotation is carved and painted in gold letters above
the entrance to the main reading room of the New York Public
Library, among other libraries.