Milton's contract with his publisher for Paradise Lost
from The works of John Milton, in verse and prose, printed from the original editions with a life of the author by the Rev. John Mitford.
8 vols. London: William Pickering, 1851. Volume III.
At the Restoration, Milton's writings against monarchy left him in at least potential danger of the dreadful penalties of disembowelling, death and dismemberment exacted against seventeenth-century traitors and actually carried through against the Regicides who signed the King's death warrant. In his words, "though I did not participate in the toils or dangers of the war, yet I was at the same time engaged in a service not less hazardous to myself." In the event, influential friends protected him, though some of his political writings were suppressed. Now totally blind, he seemed to accept his reverses philosophically, as in his sonnet "To Mr. Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness":
. . . I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
Indeed, he could even find comfort in his enforced withdrawal from public affairs: "in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconsiderable degree the favour of the Deity, who regards me with more tenderness and compassion in proportion as I am able to behold nothing but himself."
He had already been engaged on his great epic poem, "of man's first disobedience," and he completed it in manuscript by 1665, meekly submitting it to the official licenser for clearance. Under this contract, signed on April 27th, 1667, Samuel Simmons (d. 1687), the son of his former publisher Matthew Simmons (d. 1654), was to pay Milton just five pounds for the right to publish one of the great works of Western literature, "things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme."
The first edition of Paradise Lost
Paradise lost. A Poem in Ten Books.
London: Printed by S. Simmons, and are to be sold by T. Helder at the Angel in Little Brittain. 1669.
First edition, seventh issue. Morocco binding. Bookplates of Arthur B. Spingarn and Roger H. West.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world . . . .
Sing heav'nly Muse . . .
. . . what in me is dark
Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence
And justify the ways of God to men.
Paradise Lost, Book I.
While Simmons printed some 1300 copies of the ten-book first edition, and had them ready for sale by August 1667, he issued them gradually over the next two years or so, with differently dated title-pages and varying preliminary matter. This copy has the fifth of the six variant title-pages (as in Coleridge,Descriptive Catalogue, reproduction 43), with the address "The Printer to the Reader," signed S. Simmons, in three lines.
The revised, second edition of Paradise Lost
Paradise lost : a poem in twelve books.
Second edition, revised and augmented by the same author.
London: S. Simmons, 1674. Signature, bookplate and stamp of Charles Wotton. Bookplate of William Melin Roscoe. Nineteenth century panelled calf.
For this edition, Milton broke his original ten books into twelve, on the model of Virgil. The new edition added Marvell's verse tribute to Milton, as well as the frontispiece engraving from the portrait by William Dolle, as well as Marvell's verse tribute to Milton's blank verse. The younger poet Marvell, M.P. for Hull, befriended Milton in the 1660s. Milton's unrhymed blank verse had seemed sufficiently strange on first publication for the publisher to add a defensive preface and for Dryden to offer to turn it into rhyme.
The third edition of Paradise Lost
Paradise lost. A poem in twelve books.
The third edition, revised and augmented by the same author.
London: Printed by S. Simmons, 1678. Nineteenth century calf binding.
This third edition, while not uncommon, is in relative terms the rarest of the early editions of Milton's major work.
The fourth edition of Paradise Lost
Paradise lost. A poem in twelve books.
The fourth edition, adorn'd with sculptures.
London: Printed by Miles Flesher, for Richard Bently and Jacob Tonson, 1688. Calf with banded
This was the first illustrated edition, with twenty full-page engravings by Robert White (1645-1703), who also reengraved the frontispiece portrait. The verses below the portrait, linking Milton with Homer and Vergil, were by John Dryden, the poet laureate, signalling the way that Milton's achievement overcame the political stigma still attached to his prose writing:
Three Poets, in three distant Ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn.
The First in loftiness of thought surpass'd;
The Next in Majesty; in both the Last.
The force of Nature cou'd no farther goe:
To make a s she joynd the former two.
With this, it has been estimated, some 4000 copies of the poem had reached print.
The first edition of Paradise Regained
Paradise regain'd : a poem in IV books to which is added Samson Agonistes.
London: Printed by J.M. for John Starkey, 1671.
First edition. Black morocco binding by Riviere. Bookplate of Roger H. West.
I, who ere while the happy garden sung
By one man's disobedience lost, now sing
Recover'd Paradise to all mankind,
By one man's firm obedience fully tried
Through all temptation, and the tempter foil'd
In all his wiles, defeated and repulsed
Paradise Regain'd, Book I
Milton's Quaker friend Thomas Elwood recounted that, when he returned to the manuscript of Paradise Lost, he had asked the poet, "Thou hast said much of paradise lost, but what hast thou to say of paradise found?" Milton followed up his version of the fall of Adam and Eve with this complementary though much shorter epic poem on Christ's resistance in the wilderness to Satan's temptings, among them the temptation to worldly power, which Christ must reject.
Samson Agonistes, shown from the second edition
Paradise regain'd. A poem. In IV books. To which is added Samson Agonistes.
London: Printed for John Starkey, 1680.
Second edition. Calf binding with restored spine.
The second major item in Milton's 1671 volume was his Biblical tragedy Samson Agonistes. Though some scholars have argued that Milton had written the play much earlier, in the late 1640s, most readers immediately identify the situation of the now-blind and powerless Samson, "eyeless in Gaza, grinding at the mill with slaves," as at least in part autobiographical, reflecting Milton's own blindness and his frustration as the once-free English submitted again to the Philistian yoke of the restored monarchy.
The second edition of Milton's shorter poems
Poems, &c. Upon Several Occasions. By Mr. John Milton: Both English and Latin, &c. Composed at several times. With a small Tractate of Education to Mr. Hartlib.
London: printed for Thomas Dring at the White Lion next Chancery Lane End, in Fleet-street, 1673.Purchased for the library by the Thomas Cooper Society.
The reputation of Paradise Lost encouraged a new edition of Milton's Poems, English and Latin, and Milton took the opportunity to include both a number of the sonnets and other shorter poems that he had written since 1645, and his prose essay On Education, originally been published in 1644, when he had been running his own small school. Shown here is one of the new poems, his sonnet on his blindness, written in the mid 1650s, but here published for the first time.
Milton's contemporary fame
Edward Phillips, 1630-1696?
in his Theatrum poetarum, or A compleat collection of the poets, especially the most eminent, of all ages. The antients distinguish't from the moderns in their several alphabets. With some observations and reflections upon many of them, particularly those of our own nation.
2 vols. in 1. London, Printed for Charles Smith, at the Angel near the Inner Temple-Gate in
Fleet-street. Anno Dom. 1675.
The author of this pioneering mini-dictionary of literary biography, curiously alphabetized by first rather than last name, was not only Milton's nephew, but also his former pupil. Phillips is suitably reticent about over-praising his famous uncle, but his comment on Milton's contemporary fame ("sufficiently known to all the Learned of Europe") is clear. The Theatrum's entry on Shakespeare has traditionally been attributed to Milton himself.
Milton as historian
Milton, John, 1608-1674.
The History of Britain, That part especially now call'd England. From the first Traditional Beginning, continu'd to the Norman Conquest. Collected out of the antientest and best Authours thereof.
London: printed by J.M. for James Allestry, at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul's Church-yeard, 1670. First edition, first issue, with errata leaf but lacking portrait. Purchased for the library by the Thomas Cooper Society.
In addition to the poetry on which his fame rests, during the last decade of his life Milton completed and took to press a number of works written or begun years before that for one reason or another had lingered unpublished. As a young man, he had projected a national epic based on the history of King Arthur, and he had started this prose history of early Britain in the 1640s, completing four books before becoming Latin Secretary, and writing a further two in the 1650s.
The North of England in the seventeenth-century
Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg,
"Yorke, Shrowesbury, Lancaster, Richmont,"
from Theatrum Praecipuarum Totius Mundi Urbium, Liber Sixtus.
Frankfurt: Hierat and Hogenberg, 1618. John Osman Collection.
The course of the English civil war pivoted, not just on London and Oxford, but on provincial county towns such as these. As the two sample 1663 issues of Newes Published for Satisfaction and Information of the People (donated by William M. Jordan) show, even after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, there were continuing rumours of plots and rebellions, especially in these provincial centers. The historical figures on the right of the Braun & Hogenberg engraving closely parallel the periods covered in Milton's History of Britain (1670), while those on the right illustrate the social hierarchy that, especially in the late 1640s, seemed to be breaking apart.
Government control in the late 17th century
The two issues displayed here from the official London Gazette, in June 1684 and May 1687, illustrate both the complex European diplomatic context in which seventeenth-century governments had to operate and (in the petition of the Anabaptists in 1687) the way in which, to the end of Milton's life, the restored monarchy continued to identify religious difference with a renewed political threat.
The pirated republication of Milton's republican past
Literæ pseudo-senatûs anglicani, Cromwellii, reliquorumque perduellium nomine ac jussu / conscriptae a Joanne Miltono.
[London: printed by Blaeu for Moses Pitt?,] Impressæ anno 1676. Contemporary mottled calf. Shown with: John Milton,
Literæ pseudo-senatus anglicani, Cromwellii, reliquorumque perduellium nomine ac jussu conscriptæ a Joanne Miltono.
[Brussels]: [E. Fricx], Impressæ anno 1676. Title-page inscription: R. Ward. Trin: Coll: Alumn:." Modern brown calf.
The eddies and cross-currents of English politics in the later 17th century regularly rekindled interest in Milton's republican writings. In 1676, the first, "fruit," edition shown here of this surreptitious republication of Milton's dispatches as Latin secretary (printed abroad for the London bookseller) (Coleridge 29) was intriguing enough to attract a rival piracy (the second, "face" edition, Coleridge 30, also printed abroad).
Milton as contemporary geographer
A brief history of Moscovia: and other less-known countries lying eastward of Russia as far as Cathay. Gathered from the writings of several eye-witnesses.
London: Printed by M. Flesher, for Brabazon Aylmer, 1682. Contemporary calf, rebacked.
Like his History of Britain, Milton's compilation from travelers to Russia had been written in the late 1640s, though it remained unpublished till after his death.
Milton's textbook of Ramist logic
"Artis Logicae Plenior Instituto, Ad Petri Rami Methodum concinnata. Adjecta est Praxis Analytica & Petri Rami Vita,"
in Joannis Miltoni Opera Omnia Latina. . . . Nunc primum junctim edita.
Amstelodami [London]: 1698
The new anti-scholastic logic or "method" of the French scholar Peter Ramus was particularly influential among his fellow-protestants. Milton had written this Ramistic logic text in the 1640s, and first published it in 1672. Interestingly, the life of Ramus appended to Milton's Logic included a letter from Ramus to Milton's old schoolmaster at St. Paul's Alexander Gill. It is shown here from the first collected edition of Milton's prose, A complete collection of the historical, political, and miscellaneous works of John Milton, both English and Latin. With som papers never before publish'd, edited by the Irish-born freethinker John Toland (1670-1722).
Milton as radical theologian
Joannis Miltoni Angli De doctrina christiana: libri duo posthumi, quos ex schedis manuscriptis deprompsit, et typis mandari primus curavit Carolus Ricardus Sumner.
Cantabrigiae: Typis Academicis, excudit Joannes Smith, 1825. Bookplate of Conyngham. Modern dark blue half calf.
One work that Milton himself never published was his Latin manuscript on Christian doctrine, first discovered in 1823. Milton probably wrote it in the 1650s, and completed it by 1661. While Milton compiled his argument entirely on the basis of Scriptural texts, he built from them a broad, liberal theology that even in the 1820s was widely condemned as shocking and heretical.