Paradise Lost. Manuscript of Book I, in the hand of an amanuensis
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1904
This 33-page manuscript is all that remains of the many drafts and fair copies of the evolving text of Milton's biblical epic Paradise Lost. After he lost his sight, Milton relied on several copyists, to transcribe the verses he composed in solitude and to assist him as he revised. This manuscript, which has been marked up lightly by at least five different hands, consists of the text of Book I as it was delivered to Samuel Simmons, the printer of the 1667 first edition. Simmons probably retained these sheets and passed them on to later copyright holders because they bear the imprimatur, or publishing license, issued by the English government.
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.
And broken chariot wheeles. so thick bestrown
Abject and lost lay these, covering the flood,
Under amazment of thir hideous change.
He calld so loud, that all the hollow deeps
Of Hell resounded. Princes, Potentates,
Warriers, the flower of Heav'n, once yours, now lost,
If such astonishment as this can seise
Eternal spirits: or have ye chos'n this place
After the toyle of battell to repose
Your wearied vertue, for the ease you find
To slumber here, as in the vales of Heav'n?
Or in this abject posture have yee sworne
To adore the Conquerour? who now beholds
Cherube and Seraph rowling in the flood
With scatter'd arms and Ensigns, till anon
His swift persuers from Heav'n gates discern
Th' advantage, and descending tread us downe
Thus drooping, or with linked thunderbolts
Transfix us to the bottom of this gulfe.
Awake, arise, or bee for ever fal'n.
[They heard, and were abash'd, and up they sprung
Upon the wing; as when men wont to watch
On duty, sleeping found by whom they dread,
Rouse and bestirr themselves ere well awake.
Nor did they not perceive the evill plight
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.