London: Printed by S. Simons, and to be sold by S. Thomson, 1668. First edition. First edition, fourth title page (Amory 2, with Milton's name spelled out and the correct imprint). The first printing of Milton's Argument & his explanation of English heroic verse. Quarto (7 1/8 x 5 1/4 inches; 181 x 134 mm.). Unpaginated. *A4, a4, A-Vv2. "A reissue of sheets with *A4, a4 added, containing 'The argument' of books i-x, a defense of 'The verse', 'Errata' (13 items), and the t-p" (Amory).
Nineteenth-century paneled calf, rebacked. Boards ruled in gilt with gilt board edges. Dentelles in blind. All edges dyed red. Marbled endpapers. Board edges a bit bumped and rubbed. Inner margin of title-page is reinforced. Some light spotting and toning throughout. A few dark spots to leaves K, L4 and Mm3. A two-inch tear, professionally repaired and barely affecting text to leaf B. Previous owner's bookplates to front and rear endpapers and a small book description tipped in.
Overall a very good copy. "Paradise Lost is the single greatest poetic achievement of the Seventeenth Century, as indeed Milton is its greatest writer, whether as a poet or polemicist. Milton's earlier, shorter poems, especially On the morning of Christ's Nativity, L'Allegro & Il Penseroso, On His Blindness, Comus & Lycidas, revealed his musical genius; Paradise Lost revealed the worrisome grandeur of his intellect. It is no doubt a measure of the breadth & depth & bent of his mind, as well as of the stresses of the England in which he lived - with its Civil War, Regicide & Restoration - that Milton would have attempted to justify the ways of God to men. And it is no doubt the implausibility - or impossibility - of his argument, of which his younger contemporary Pascal might have warned him, that undermined his ambition, causing Blake to call Milton a true Poet, but of the Devil's party without knowing it. However problematic, Paradise Lost still stands as one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems in any language" (Dryden).
John Dryden referred to Paradise Lost as "one of the greatest, most noble and sublime poems which either this age or nation has produced." Although the tremendously difficult circumstances under which Milton produced the work are legendary-he had been blinded by long years of service as secretary under Cromwell and was in political disfavor after the restoration of Charles II-the troubled printing history of the work is less well known. The publisher Samuel Simmons reluctantly agreed to print a small first edition of 1300 copies, as he was assuming a heavy risk in sponsoring an epic poem, for which no precedent in English publishing had been established. As payment for the first edition, Milton received a total of ten pounds. Amory 2. Grolier, 100 English, 33. Grolier, Wither to Prior, II, 187. Hayward 72. Pforzheimer 716. Wing M2139. (Item #1718)
Out of stock