. . . 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.
(book I, 22–26)
629G Milton,John. 1608-1674
Paradise Lost. A Poem In Twelve Books. The Authour John Milton. The Fourth Edition, Adorn’d with Sculptures.
London: Printed by Miles Flesher, for Jacob Tonson, at the Judge’s-Head in Chancery-lane near Fleet-street, 1688 $SOLD
Folio, Large paper copy. 14 ¾ X 9 ¼ inches. This is the fourth edition of the text but this edition comes with a number of firsts: 1) First illustrated edition of Paradise Lost 2) First Large format Paradise Lost printed on high-quality paper with very handsome type 3) First serious effort to illustrate an important work of English poetry 4) First major English literary work with important engraved illustrations in the seventeenth century 5) First book to be sold by subscription (500 subscribers).
[A]4, B2, C-Z4, Aa-Xx4, Yy-Zz2, Aa2. The engraved portrait frontispiece of Milton is bound opposite the title page. Twelve full-paged engravings accompany the text. The Frontispiece is Robert White’s engraved portrait with Dryden’s epigram. THERE IS A FULL PAGE Illustrations in for each book. Those for Books III, V, VI, VII, IX, X, XI by John Baptista de Medina, engraved by M. Burghers; Book IV, by Bernard Lens, engraved by P.P. Bouche; Book XII, by Henry Aldrich, engraved by Burghers; and Books I, II, now considered to be after Aldrich and engraved by Burghers” (Shawcross modified). Internally, the copy is in excellent condition with wide, clean margins. Overall, it is an excellent, tall copy. Bound in full calf recently rebacked, a very nice Large Paper copy.
“Paradise Lost is at once a deeply traditional and a boldly original poem. Milton takes pains to fulfill the traditional prescriptions of the epic form; he gives us love, war, supernatural characters, a descent into Hell, a catalogue of warriors, all the conventional items of epic machinery. Yet no poem in which the climax of the central action is a woman eating a piece of fruit can be a conventional epic. […] The way of life which Adam and Eve take up as the poem ends is that of the Christian pilgrimage through this world. Paradise was no place or condition in which to exercise Christian heroism as Milton conceives it. Expelled from Eden, our first ‘grand parents’ pick up the burdens of humanity as we know them, sustained by a faith which we also know, and go forth to seek a blessing which we do not know yet. They are to become wayfaring, warfaring Christians, like John Milton; and in this condition, with its weaknesses and strivings and inevitable defeats, there is a glory that no devil can ever understand. Thus Milton strikes, humanly as well as artistically, a grand resolving chord. It is the careful, triumphant balancing and tempering of this conclusion which makes Milton’s poem the noble architecture it is; and which makes of the end a richer, if not a more exciting, experience than the beginning” (Norton Anthology of English Literature). “Milton writes not only as a literary connoisseur but also as a scholar, appealing in his readers to a love of ordered learning like his own. Even the echoes of ancient phrase should often be considered, not as mere borrowings, conscious, or unconscious, but as allusions intended to carry with them, when recognized, the connotation of their original setting. […] The extraordinary thing is the way in which this object is accomplished without loss of poetic quality. The secret seems to be the degree to which the materials of learning have become associated with sensuous imagery and with moving poetical ideas. Milton is erudite, but all erudition is not for him of equal value. Winnowed, humanized, and touched with the fire of imagination, his studies have passed into vital experience and afford him as natural a body of poetical data as birds and flowers.”(Hanford, A Milton Handbook) Shawcross 347; Wing M-2147; Wither to Prior #607; Coleridge 93b
For more Miltionian fun see the web site http://darknessvisible.christs.cam.ac.uk/sitemap.html#paradiselost
Form that web site : Further Reading
Robert Woold, Howard J.M. Hanley, Stephen Hebron, Paradise Lost: the Poem and its Illustrators (Grasmere: the Wordsworth Trust, 2004).
The best introduction to Paradise Lost and its artistic interpreters, this beautifully illustrated book started life as the catalogue of a Wordsworth Trust exhibition in 2004. It charts a fascinating path through the most celebrated artists to tackle Milton, setting them alongside some lesser-known gems.
Marcia R. Pointon, Milton and English Art (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1970).
Pointon’s book is still the place to go to explore Milton’s poetry as a source for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English art. Even a brief skim through the illustrations gives a vivid sense of what Paradise Lost meant to these different periods.