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.
Pendant by su[ ]e magic many a row
Of Starry lamps and blazeing cressets fed
With Naphtha and Asphaltus yielded light
As from a sky. The hasty multitude
Admiring enterd, and the work some praise
And some the Architect: his hand was known
In heav'n by many a towred structure high
Where scepter'd Angels held thir residence,
And sat as princes, whom the supreme King
Exalted to such power, and gave to rule,
Each in his hierarchy the orders bright.
Nor was his name unheard or unador'd
In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land
Men call'd him Mulciber; and how he fell
From heav'n, they fabl'd, thrown by angry Jove
Sheere o're the chrystall battlements: from Morn
To Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy eeve
A summers day; and with the setting sun
Dropt from the zenith like a falling starr,
On Lemnos th' Ægæan ile: thus they relate,
Erring; for he with this rebellious rout
Fell long before; nor aught avail'd him now
To have built in heav'n high Towers; nor did he scape
By all his engins, but was headlong sent
With his industrious crew to build in hell.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.