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.
There went a fame in Heav'n, that hee ere long
Intended to create, and therein plant
A generation, whom his choice regard
Should favour equall to the sonns of Heaven:
Thither, if but to prie, shall be perhaps
[ ]r first eruption; thither or else where:
For this infernal pit shall never hold
Celestial Spirits in bondage, nor th' Abysse
Long under darkness cover. But these thoughts
Full counsell must mature: peace is despair'd,
For who can think submission? warr then, warr
Op'n or understood must be resolv'd.
He spake: and to confirm his words, out flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs
Of mighty Cherubim; the sudden blaze
Farr round illumin'd hell: highly they rag'd
Against the Highest, and fierce with grasped arm's
Clash'd on thir sounding shields the din of warr,
Hurling defiance toward the vault of heav'n.
There stood a hill not farr whose griesly top
Belch'd fire and rowling smoak; the rest entire
Shon with a glossie scurf, undoubted signe
That in his woomb was hid metallic Ore,
The work of Sulphur. Thither wing'd with speed
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.