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.
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
John Milton (1608–1674)
Paradise Lost: A poem, in Twelve Books. The Author /
John Milton. With the life of Milton. By Thomas Newton,
D.D. [Eight lines from Thomson]
Philadelphia: Printed by Robert Bell, in Third-Street, 1777.
PML 17358. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.
Over a century after the first publication of Paradise Lost in
London, the Philadelphia printer Robert Bell, perhaps inspired
by the Revolution, ignored British copyright and published this
two-volume edition of Milton's work. This is the extremely
rare first American edition, in contemporary sheep binding
with a frontispiece portrait engraving by John Norman, to
which a previous owner has added a moustache in ink. Milton
had long enjoyed a high reputation in this country. Thomas
Jefferson, like many of his contemporaries, regarded Milton as
one of the greatest poets of the English language. In his essay
"Thoughts on English Prosody," he declared blank verse to
be "the most precious part of our poetry," citing the opening
of Paradise Lost as an example.