A Large Paper Copy of the First Illustrated Edition

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 AND 1688


Folio 36 x 22.8 cm. I. [A]-B2, C-Z4, Aa-Xx4, Yy-Zz2, Aa2. II. A-R2; A-H4. With an added engraved portrait of Milton and 12 plates illustrating the first work.

FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION, TONSON ISSUE, and the first in folio of Paradise Lost (The first edition of the poem was printed in 1667.) This copy is bound together with 1688 edition of the author’s “Paradise Regain’d” and “Samson Agonistes”.

This copy is bound in full 19th century calf, rubbed, the top of the front joint starting. The boards are ruled in blind with grape leaf ornaments at the corners. There is a red morocco label, gilt, on the spine. Internally, this copy is in excellent condition with generous margins. The leaves are clean; the impressions of the plates and portrait are sharp and rich. A very fine copy of this magnificent book.

“The only major English literary work with important engraved illustrations in the 17th century is the first illustrated edition of ‘Paradise Lost.’” (Edward Hodnett)

"‘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 that we also know, and go forth to seek a blessing that 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, "Milton’s Style and Versification - with Special Reference to ‘Paradise Lost’")

I. Wing M2147; Shawcross 347; Coleridge 93b; Pforzheimer 720; Wither to Prior #607; Hofer, Baroque Book Illustration, 16. II. Wing M2154; Shawcross 348; Coleridge 170; Pforzheimer 721