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. Vol. I.
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Over a century after the first publication of Paradise Lost in London, the Philadelphia printer Robert Bell, perhaps inspired by the Revolution, ignored British copyright and published this two-volume edition of Milton's work. This is the extremely rare first American edition, in contemporary sheep binding with a frontispiece portrait engraving by John Norman, to which a previous owner has added a moustache in ink. Milton had long enjoyed a high reputation in this country. Thomas Jefferson, like many of his contemporaries, regarded Milton as one of the greatest poets of the English language. In his essay "Thoughts on English Prosody," he declared blank verse to be "the most precious part of our poetry," citing the opening of Paradise Lost as an example.
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.
Photography by Graham Haber.