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 underneath had veins of liquid fire
Sluc'd from the lake a second multitude
With wondrous art founded the massy Ore,
Severing each kind, and scum'd the bullion drosse:
[ ]rd as soon had form'd within the ground
[ ]arious mould, and from the boyleing cells
[ ] strange conveiance fill'd each hollow nook:
As in an Organ from one blast of wind
To many a row of pipes the sound-bord breaths.
Anon out of the earth a fabric huge
Rose like an exhalation, with the sound
Of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet:
Built like a temple, where pilasters round
Were set, and Doric pillars overlayd
With golden Architrave; nor did there want
Cornice or freeze with bossy sculptures grav'n,
The roof was fretted gold. Not Babilon,
Nor great Alcairo such magnificence
Equall'd in all thir glories, to inshrine
Belus or Serapis thir Gods, or seate
Thir kings, when Egipt with Assyria strove
In wealth and luxury. Th' ascending pile
Stood fixt her stately highth, and strait the dores
Op'ning thir brasen folds discover wide
Within, her ample spaces, o're the smooth
And level pavement: from the arched roof
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.