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.
That fought at Theb's and Ilium, on each side
Mixt with auxiliar Gods; and what resounds
In fable or Romance of Uthers sonne
Begirt with Brittish and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptiz'd or infidell
Jousted in Aspramont or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia. Thus farr these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observ'd
Thir dred Commander: hee above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent
Stood like a towre; his forme had yet not lost
All her original brightnesse, nor appear'd
Lesse then Archangel ruin'd, and th' excess
Of glory obscur'd: As when the sun new ris'n
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beames; or from behind the moon
In dimme eclipse disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes Monarchs. Dark'n'd so, yet shon
Above them all th' Archangel: but his face
Deep scarrs of thunder had intrench't, and care
Sat on his faded cheeke, but under browes
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.