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.
Of alienated Judah. Next came one
Who mourn'd in earnest, when the captive Ark
Maim'd his brute image, head and hands lopt off
In his own temple, on the grundsell edge,
Where he fell flat, and sham'd his worshippers:
Dagon his name, sea monster, upward man
And downward fish: yet had his temple high
Rear'd in Azotus; dreaded through the coast
Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,
And Accaron and Gaza's frontier bounds.
Him follow'd Rimmon, whose delightfull seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abbana and Pharphar, lucid streames.
He also against the house of God was bold:
A leper once he lost and gain'd a King,
Ahaz his sottish conquerour, whom he drew
Gods altar to disparage and displace
For one of Syrian mode, where on to burn
His odious offrings, and adore the Gods
Whom he had vanquisht. After these appear'd
A crew who under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus and their train
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abus'd
Fanatic Egipt and her preists, to seek
Thir wandring Gods disguis'd in brutish forms
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.