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)
Anonymous, British school, attributed to Edmund Ashfield
Miniature portrait of an unknown man,
believed to be John Milton
Watercolor on vellum
Oval, 2 1/4 x 1 13/16 inches (57 x 45 mm)
AZ099. Gift of J. P. Morgan, Jr.
This portrait of a middle-aged man, costumed in a black
buttoned vest, black gown, square white collar tied with strings
and having two tassels below, is believed to depict John Milton
at forty-eight years of age. According to John Aubrey, an
early biographer of Milton, the poet's long hair was "abroun"
or "reddish," and his "complexion exceeding fayre." This
miniature may have been given by Milton to his second wife,
Katherine Woodcock, whom he married in November 1656.
She gave birth to a daughter in October 1657, but both mother
and child died the following year. Woodcock is commemorated
in Sonnet 23 as "my late espousèd saint." The miniature was
bequeathed to Woodcock's niece and was handed down in
direct succession through the Woodcock family.