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.
Which oftimes may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I faile not, and disturb
His inmost counsells from thir destind aim.
But see the Angry Victor hath recall'd
His ministers of vengeance and persuit
Back to the gates of Heaven: The sulphurous haile
Shot after us in storm, oreblow'n hath layd
This fiery Surge, that from the precipice
Of heaven receiv'd us falling, and the thunder
Wingd with red lightning and impetuous rage
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundlesse deep.
Let us not slip th' occasion: whether scorn,
Or satiate fury yeild it from our foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wilde,
The seat of desolation, voyd of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadfull! Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves,
There rest, if any rest can harbour there,
And reassembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how wee may hence forth most offend
Our enemy, our owne losse how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity,
What reinforcement wee may gaine from hope,
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.