Paradise Lost. Manuscript of Book I, in the hand of an amanuensis
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1904
This 33-page manuscript is all that remains of the many drafts and fair copies of the evolving text of Milton's biblical epic Paradise Lost. After he lost his sight, Milton relied on several copyists, to transcribe the verses he composed in solitude and to assist him as he revised. This manuscript, which has been marked up lightly by at least five different hands, consists of the text of Book I as it was delivered to Samuel Simmons, the printer of the 1667 first edition. Simmons probably retained these sheets and passed them on to later copyright holders because they bear the imprimatur, or publishing license, issued by the English government.
To celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Milton (1608–1674), The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to present the only surviving manuscript of Paradise Lost, Book 1. This epic poem is considered Milton's greatest artistic achievement and one of the finest works of the human imagination. Acquired by Pierpont Morgan in 1904, it is the most important British literary manuscript in the collection. The 33-page manuscript has been temporarily disbound, providing an opportunity to see more of its pages than ever before. Also in this presentation are first editions of Paradise Lost printed in England and the United States during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and a rarely seen miniature portrait of the poet.
Heap on himselfe damnation, while hee sought
Evill to others, and enrag'd might see
How all his malice serv'd but to bring forth
Infinite goodnesse, grace and mercy, shewn
On man by him seduc't, but on himselfe
Treble confusion, wrauth and vengeance pour'd.
Forth with upright he rears from off the poole
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
Driv'n backward slope thir poynting spires, & rowld
In billows, leave ith' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steares his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air
That felt unusuall waight, till on dry land
He lights, if it were land that ever burn'd
With solid, as the Lake with liquid fire,
And such appear'd in hew; as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shatter'd side
Of thundring Etna, whose combustible
And fewell'd entrails thence conceiving fire
Sublim'd with minerall fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involv'd
With stench and smoak. Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet: him followd his next Mate
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.