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 Ten Books. The Author J. M.
London: Printed, and are to be sold by Peter Parker under
Creed Church neer Aldgate; and by Robert Boulter at the
Turks Head in Bishopsgate-street; and Matthias Walker,
under St. Dunstons Church in Fleet-street, 1668.
PML 19262. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1912.
The bibliographer Hugh Amory argues persuasively for this
being the earliest issue of the first edition of Paradise Lost
(despite its title page, dated 1668), in which the anonymous
author is identified only by his initials, "J. M." Similarly, the
author is identified in the Stationers' Register on 20 August
1667 by his initials only. Amory speculates that Samuel Simmons,
the printer and publisher of the first edition, decided against
using Milton's full name on the title page "as the day of publication
approached," substituting this version on which the
author remained anonymous. Simmons's faltering confidence
is understandable because Milton, a prominent supporter
of regicide (he defended the execution of Charles I), was still
widely regarded as a dangerous radical when Paradise Lost
was first published.