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)
Cyriack, this three years day these eys, though clear
To outward view, of blemish or of spot;
Bereft of light, thir seeing have forgot,
Nor to thir idle orbs doth sight appear
Of Sun or Moon or Starre throughout the year,
Or man or woman. Yet I argue not
Against heavns hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, Friend, to have lost them overply'd
In libertyes defence, my noble task,
Of which all Europe talks from side to side.
This thought might lead me through the worlds vain mask
Content though blind, had I no better guide.
John Milton, Sonnet XXII
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 17359. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911.
In Bell's edition, Milton's two sonnets on the subject of his
blindness are printed together on one page. Sonnet 22 (here
numbered VII) is a Petrarchan sonnet addressed to his pupil and
friend, Cyriack Skinner (1627–1700). Written in late 1654 or early
1655, three years after Milton had become totally blind, it
remained unpublished during Milton's lifetime. The manuscript is
written in Skinner's hand, indicating that Milton dictated it to
him. Both sonnets innovatively blur the distinction between the
octave and sestet, continuing the syntax and sense between the
eighth and ninth lines by enjambment to more closely approximate
the natural rhythms of the speaking voice. This fluidity
and continuity, in which, according to Milton's note, "the sense
[is] variously drawn out from one verse into another," is also a
notable element in the poetic accomplishment of Paradise Lost.