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.
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and swage
With solemn touches, troubl'd thoughts, and chase
Anguish and doubt and feare and sorrow and pain
From mortall or immortall minds. Thus they
Breathing united force with fixed thought
Mov'd on in silence to soft pipes that charm'd
Thir painfull steps o're the burnt soyle; and now
Advanc't in view they stand, a horrid front
Of dreadfull length and dazling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with order'd spear and shield,
A-waiting what command thir mighty Chiefe
Had to impose: hee through the armed files
Darts his experienc'd eye, and soon travers
The whole battalion views; thir order due,
Thir visages and stature as of Gods,
Thir number last he summs. And now his heart
Distends with pride, and hardning in his strength
Glories: for never since created man,
Met such imbodied force, as nam'd with these
Could merit more then that small infantry
Warr'd on by Cranes: though all the giant brood
Of Phlegra with th' Heroic race were joyn'd
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.