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 authour John
Milton. The fourth edition, adorn'd with sculptures.
London: Printed by Miles Flesher, for Richard Bently,
at the Post-Office in Russell-Street, and Jacob Tonson at the
Judge's Head in Chancery-lane near Fleet-street, 1688.
PML 36799. Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941.
By 1688, when England was on the verge of the Whig revolution,
Milton's reputation had revived considerably. He was
commended for his republicanism as well as his record as a
defender of liberty. His supporters believed that his greatest
poetic achievement merited this handsome, monumental
edition. One of the earliest examples of subscription publishing,
financed by Lord Somers, the fourth edition of Paradise Lost
was the first to be printed in folio format and is the first illustrated
edition, distinguished by high quality paper, large, clear
type, and ample margins. Milton had previously reorganized
the poem into twelve books (by splitting Books 7 and 10 of the
original) to parallel Virgil's Aeneid more closely. Full-page illustrations
by John Baptiste de Medina, Bernard Lens, and Henry
Aldrich precede each of the twelve books in this edition.