Folio 12r

Primary tabs

John Milton
(1608–1674)

Paradise Lost. Manuscript of Book I, in the hand of an amanuensis

ca. 1665

Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1904

MA 307 (fol. 12r)
Item description: 

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.

About this exhibition: 

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.

Transcription: 

Rather then human. Nor did Israel scape
Th' infection when thir borrow'd gold compos'd
The Calfe in Oreb: and the rebell King
Doubl'd that sin in Bethel and in Dan,
Likning his Maker to the grazed ox,
Jehovah, who in one night when he past
From Egipt marching, equall'd with one stroke
Both her first born and all her bleating Gods.
Belial came last, then whom a spirit more lewd
Fell not from heaven, or more grosse to love
Vice for it selfe: to him no temple stood
Or altar smoakd; yet who more oft then hee
In temples and at Altars, when the Preist
Turns Atheist, as did Ely's sonns, who fill'd
With lust and violence the house of God.
In Courts and Palaces he also reigns
And in luxurious cities, where the noise
Of riot ascends above thir loftiest towers,
And injury and outrage: and when night
Darkens the streets then wander forth the sonns
Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Witnesse the streets of Sodom, and that night
In Gibeah, when hospitable doors
Yeilded thir Matrons to avoide worse rape.
These were the prime in order and in might;

Credits: 

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.

Photography by Graham Haber.