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 utter darkness, & thir portion set
As farr remov'd from God and light of Heav'n
As from the Center thrice to th' utmost pole.
O how unlike the place from whence they fell!
There the companions of his fall orewhelmd
With floods & whirlwinds of tempestuous fire,
Hee soone discernes, & weltring by his side
One next himselfe in power & next in crime,
Long after known in Palestine, and nam'd
Beelzebub. To whom th' Arch-enemy,
And thence in Heav'n call'd Satan, with bold words
Breaking the horrid silence thus began.
If thou beest he, But O how fal'n how chang'd
From him who in the happie realmes of light
Cloth'd with transcendent brightnesse didst outshine
Myriads though bright: if hee whom mutuall league,
United thoughts & counsells, equall hope,
And hazard in the glorious enterprize
Joynd with me once, now misery hath joynd
In equall ruin: into what pit thou seest
From what highth fall'n, so much the stronger prov'd
Hee with his thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire arm's? yet not for those
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.