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.
But what if hee our conquerour, (whom I now
Of force beleive Almighty, since no lesse
Then such could have orepowr'd such force as ours)
Have left us this our spirit, and strength intire
Strongly to suffer and support our pains,
That wee may so suffice his vengefull ire
Or doe him mightier service as his thralls
By right of warr, what e're his buis'nesse bee
Here in the heart of Hell to work in fire,
Or doe his errands in the gloomy deep,
What can it then availe though yet wee feele
Strength undiminish'd, or eternall being
To undergoe eternall punishment?
Where to with speedy words th' Arch-fiend reply'd.
Fall'n Cherube, to bee weak is miserable
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure
To do aught good never will bee our task,
But ever to doe ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom wee resist. If then his providence
Out of our evill seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evill,
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.