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 arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't,
Wee may with more successfull hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternall warr
Irreconcileable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, & in th' excesse of joy
Sole raigning holds the Tyranny of Heaven.
So spake th' Apostate Angell, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but wrackt with deep despair:
And him thus answer'd soon his bold Compeer:
O Prince, O Cheife of many throned powers,
That led th' imbattelld Seraphim to warr
Under thy Conduct, & in dreadfull deeds
Fearless; endanger'd Heavens perpetuall King;
And put to proof his high Supremacy,
Whither upheld by strength or chance or fate;
Too well I see and rue the dire event,
That with sad overthrow and foul defeat
Hath lost us Heaven, and all this mighty host
In horrible destruction layd thus low
As farr as Gods and heavenly Essences
Can perish: for the mind and spirit remaines
Invincible, and vigour soon returnes,
Though all our glory extinct, and happie state
Here swallow'd up in endlesse misery.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.