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Imagining Paradise, an Exhibit for the John Milton Quatercentenary

Thomas Cooper Library (Mezzanine Gallery)
Jan 1, 2009 - Apr 1, 2009
December 2008 marked the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of English poet John Milton in London on December 9, 1608. Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) became one of the most influential, most widely-read, and most frequently-reprinted of all English books. Unlike earlier epics, Milton’s poem told the story not of one nation, but of mankind, and not of individual quest or heroism, but of a more universal experience: “Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden fruit whose mortal taste Brought death into the world and all our woe, With loss of Eden…” In the centuries since Milton’s death, in 1674, the poem has drawn responses not only from readers and critics, but also from poets and musicians and artists. Since then many artists and illustrators have produced illustrations or illustrative sequences. Each generation has responded in its own terms, bringing out different aspects of Milton’s poem, focusing perhaps on paradise and paradisal love, or the titanic conflicts of the warring angels, or on Satan as Romantic rebel, as much as on the Fall itself. This exhibition charts the development of Milton illustration, from the first illustrated edition of Paradise Lost (1688) through eighteenth-century, Romantic, and Victorian illustration, to recent fine-press editions. It includes important original drawings and water-colors by Hayman, Richter, Westall, and others, as well as engravings by Rowlandson, Fuseli, and Martin, and fine Milton editions with illustrations by Blake, Turner, and Doré. Further information about the materials displayed and the Wickenheiser Collection is available in Dr. Wickenheiser’s illustrated catalogue, recently published by the University of South Carolina Press, or at: An audio tour of this exhibition is available for download at: