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 mans first disobedience, & the fruit
Of that forbidd'n tree, whose mortall tast
Brought death into the world, & all our woe,
With losse of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, & regaine the blisfull seate,
Sing heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Oreb or of Sinai didst inspire
That shepherd, who first taught the chosen seed,
In the beginning how the Heav'ns & Earth
Rose out of Chaos: Or if Sion hill
Delight thee more, and Siloa's brooke that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aide to my adventrous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soare
Above th' Aonian Mount; while it persues
Things unattempted yet in prose or rime.
And cheifly thou O Spirit that dost prefer
Before all temples th' upright heart & pure
Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first
Wast present, & with mighty wings outspread
Dove-like satst brooding on the vast Abysse,
And mad'st it pregnant: What in me is darke
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.