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 powers that earst in Heaven sat on thrones;
Though of thir names in heavenly records now
Be no memoriall, blotted out and raz'd,
By thir rebellion, from the books of life.
Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till wandring ore the earth,
Through Gods high sufferance for the trial of man,
By falsities and lyes the greatest part
Of Mankind they corrupted to forsake
God thir Creator and th' invisible
Glory of him that made them to transform
Oft to the image of a brute, adorn'd
With gay religions full of pomp and gold
And divells to adore for deities:
Then were they known to men by various names,
And various Idolls through the heathen world.
Say, Muse, thir names then known, who first, who last,
Rous'd from the slumber, on that fiery couch,
At thir great Emperours call, as next in worth
Came singly where hee stood on the bare strand,
While the promiscuous croud stood yet aloof.
The cheife were those who from the pit of Hell
Roaming to seek thir prey on earth, durst fix
Their seats, long after, next the Seat of God,
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.