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.
Thir living strength, and unfrequented left
His righteous Altar, bowing lowly down
To bestiall gods; for which thir heads as low
Bow'd down in battell, sunk before the spear
Of despicable foes. With these in troop
Came Astoreth, whom the Phoenicians call'd
Astarte queen of heav'n, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins pay'd thir vows and songs,
In Sion also not unsung, where stood
Her temple on th' offensive mountain, built
By that uxorious king whose heart though large,
Beguil'd by fair Idolatresses, fell
To Idolls foule. Thammuz came next behind,
Whose annuall wound in Lebanon allur'd
The Syrian damsells to lament his fate
In amorous dittyes all a summers day,
While smooth Adonis from his native rock
Ran purple to the sea, suppos'd with blood
Of Thammuz yearly wounded: the love-tale
Infected Sions daughters with like heate,
Whose wanton passions in the sacred porch
Ezekiel saw, when by the vision led
His eye survay'd the dark Idolatries
This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr.
Photography by Graham Haber.