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.
Both glorying to have scap't the Stygian flood
As Gods, and by thir own recover'd strength,
Not by the sufferance of supernall power.
[Is this the region, this the soile, the clime,
Said then the lost Archangell, this the seat
That wee must change for Heav'n, this mournfull gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he,
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewell happie fields
Where joy for ever dwells: Hail Horrours, Haile
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new possessour: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in it selfe
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but lesse then he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
Wee shall be free; th' Almightie hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.