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.
In bigness [ ] giant-sons
Now lesse then smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
Throng numberless [ ] that pigmean race
Beyond the Indian mount, or Faerie Elves
Whose midnight revells, by a forrest side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams hee sees, while over head the Moon
Sits arbitress, and neerer to the earth
Wheels her pale course: they on thir mirth & d[ ]
Intent, with jocond music charme his eare;
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.
Thus incorporeal spirits to smallest forms
Reduc'd thir shapes immense, and were at l[ ]
Though without number still amidst the hall
Of that infernall court. But farr within
And in thir own dimensions like themselves
The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim
In close recesse and secret conclave sat
A thousand Demy-gods on golden seat's
Frequent and full. After short silence then
And summons read, the great consult began.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.