The three papers that influenced me the most at the beginning of my mathematical career were “Rational Isogenies of Prime Degree,” by my advisor, Barry Mazur; Serre’s “Sur les représentations modulaires de degré 2 de ;” and Deligne’s 200-page monograph on the fundamental group of the projective line minus three points. The year after I got my Ph.D. I used to carry around a battered Xerox of this paper wherever I went, together with a notebook in which I recorded my confusions, questions, and insights about what I was reading. This was the paper where I learned what a motive was, or at least some of the things a motive should be; where I first encountered the idea of a Tannakian category; where I first learned the definition of a Hodge structure, and what was meant by “periods.” Most importantly, I learned Deligne’s philosophy about the fundamental group: that the grand questions proposed by Grothendieck in the “Esquisse d’un Programme” regarding the action of Gal(Q) on the etale fundamental group were simply beyond our current reach, but that the nilpotent completion of — which seems like only a tiny, tentative step into the non-abelian world! — nonetheless contains a huge amount of arithmetic information. My favorite contemporary manifestation of this philosophy is Minhyong Kim’s remarkable work on non-abelian Chabauty.
Anyway: Deligne’s article appears in the MSRI volume Galois Groups over Q, which is long out of print; I bought a copy at MSRI in 1999 and I don’t know anyone who’s gotten their hands on one since. Kirsten Wickelgren, a young master of the nilpotent fundamental group, asked me the obvious-in-retrospect question of whether it was possible to get Deligne’s article back in print. I talked to MSRI about this and it turns out that, since Springer owns the copyright, the book can’t be reprinted; but Deligne himself is allowed to make a scan of the article available on his personal web page. Deligne graciously agreed: and now, here it is, a publicly available .pdf scan of “Le Groupe Fondamental de la Droite Projective Moins Trois Points.”