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.
A numerous brigad hasten'd. As when bands
Of pioners with spade and pickaxe arm'd
Forerun the royall camp, to trench a field,
Or cast a rampart. Mammon led them on,
Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell
From heav'n, for even in heav'n his looks & thou[ ]
Were alwayes downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heav'ns pavement, trod'n gold,
Then aught divine or holy else enjoy'd
In vision beatific: by him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught
Ransack'd the center, and with impious hands
Rifl'd the bowells of thir mother Earth
For treasures better hid. Soon had his crew
Op'n'd into the hill a spacious wound
And dig'd out ribs of gold. Let none admire
That riches grow in hell; that soyle may best
Deserve the precious bane. And here let those
Who boast in mortall things, and wondring tell
Of Babell, and the works of Memphian kings,
Learne how thir greatest monuments of fame,
And strength and art are easily outdon
By spirits reprobate, and in an houre
What in an age they with incessant toyle
And hands innumerable scarce perform.
Nigh on the plain in many cells prepar'd
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.