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.
In which they were, or the fierce pains not feel;
Yet to their Generalls voice they soon obai'd;
Innumerable. As when the potent rod
Of Amrams son in Egipts evill day
Wav'd round the coast, up call'd a pitchy cloud
Of Locusts, warping on the Eastern wind,
That ore the realm of impious Pharoah hung
Like night, and dark'n'd all the Land of Nile.
So numberless were those bad Angells seen
Hovering on wing under the cope of Hell
T'wixt upper, nether, and surrounding fires;
Till, as a signal given, th' uplifted speare
Of thir great Sultan waving to direct
Their course, in even ballance down they light
On the firm brimstone, and fill all the plain;
A multitude, like which the populous North
Pour'd never from her frozen loyns, to passe
Rhene or the Danaw, when her barbarous sons
Came like a deluge on the South, and spread
Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands.
Forthwith from every squadron and each band
The heads and Leaders thither hast where stood
Thir great Commander; Godlike shap's & formes
Excelling human, Princely dignities,
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.