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 dauntless valour, and considerate pride
Waiting revenge: cruell his eye, but cast
Signes of remorse and passion to behold
The fellows of his crime, the followers rather
(Farr other once beheld in bliss) condemn'd
For ever now to have thir lot in pain,
[Mi]llions of spirits for his fault amerc'd
Of Heav'n, and from eternal splendors flung
For his revolt, yet faithfull how they stood,
Thir glory witherd. As when Heavens fire
Hath scath'd the forrest oakes, or mountain pines,
With singed top thir stately growth though bare
Stands on the blasted heath. He now prepar'd
To speak; where-at their doubl'd ranks they bend
From wing to wing, and halfe inclose him round
With all his peeres: attention held them mute.
Thrice he assay'd, and thrice in spite of scorn,
Tears such as angels weepe, burst forth: at last
Words interwove with sighs found out thir way.
O Myriads of immortall spirits, o powers
Matchless, but with th' Almighty, and that strife
Was not inglorious, though th' event was dire,
As this place testifies, and this dire change
Hatefull to utter: but what powre of mind
Foreseeing or presaging, from the Depth
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.