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.
Of Southmost Abarim; in Hesebon
And Horonaim Seons realm, beyond
The flowry dale of Sibma clad with vines,
And Eleale to th' Asphaltick poole.
Peor his other name, when he entic'd
Israel in Sittim on thir march from Nile
To do him wanton rites, which cost them woe.
Yet thence his lustfull Orgies he enlarg'd
Even to that hill of scandall, by the grove
Of Moloch homicide, lust hard by hate;
Till good Josiah drove them thence to hell.
With these came they, who from the bord'ring flood
Of old Euphrates to the brook that parts
Egipt from Syrian ground, had generall names
Of Baalim and Ashtaroth, those male
These feminine. For spirits when they please
Can either sex assume, or both; so soft
And uncompounded is thir essence pure;
Not ti'd or manacl'd with joint or lim,
Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,
Like cumbrous flesh; but in what shape they chuse
Dilated or condens'd, bright or obscure,
Can execute thir aerie purposes,
And works of love or enmity fulfill.
For these the race of Israel oft forsook
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.