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.
Thir altars by his altar, gods ador'd
Among the nations round, and durst abide
Jehovah thundring out of Sion, thron'd
Between the Cherubim; yea often plac'd
With in his sanctuary it selfe thir shrines,
Abominations; and with cursed things
His holy rites, and solemn feasts profan'd,
And with thir darknesse durst affront his light.
First Moloch, horrid king besmear'd with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents teares,
Though, for the noise of drums & timbrells loud
Thir childrens cries unheard, that past through fire
To his grim Idol. Him the Ammonite
Worshipt in Rabba and her watry plain,
In Argob, and in Basan, to the stream
Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such
Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart
Of Solomon hee led by fraud to build
His temple right against the temple of God
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove
The pleasant vally of Hinnom, Tophet thence,
And black Gehenna call'd, the type of Hell.
Next Chemos, th' obscene dread of Moabs sons,
From Aroer to Nebo, and the wild
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.