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.
Hung on his shoulders like the moon whose orb
Through optick glasse the Tuscan Artist views
At evening from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers or Mountaines in her spotty globe.
His speare, to equall which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great Ammirall, were but a wand,
He walkt with, to support uneasy steps
Over the burning Marle, not like those steps
On Heavens azure; and the torrid clime
Smote on him sore besides, vaulted with fire;
Nathlesse hee so endur'd, till on the beach
Of that inflamed sea, hee stood and calld
His legions, Angell form's, who lay intrans't
Thick as Autumnall leaves that strow the brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th' Etrurian shades
High overarch't imbowre: or scatterd sedge
Afloat when with fierce winds Orion arm'd
Hath vext the red-sea coast, whose waves orethrew
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry
While with perfidious hatred they persu'd
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
From the safe shore thir floating carcasses
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.