"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books by John Milton": An Authoritative Text of the 1667 First Edition/"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books": Essays on the 1667 First Edition/The Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton at the University of South Carolina: A Descriptive Account with Illustrations

By Mulryan, John | Cithara, November 2008 | Go to article overview
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"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books by John Milton": An Authoritative Text of the 1667 First Edition/"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books": Essays on the 1667 First Edition/The Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton at the University of South Carolina: A Descriptive Account with Illustrations


Mulryan, John, Cithara


"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books By John Milton ": An Authoritative Text of the 1667 First Edition. Transcribed and Edited with Commentary by John T. Shawcross and Michael Lieb. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2007. Pp. xvi, 456. $68.00.

"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books": Essays on the 1667 First Edition. Edited by Michael Lieb and John T. Shawcross. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2007. Pp. xi, 288. $60.00.

The Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton at the University of South Carolina: A Descriptive Account with Illustrations. By Robert J. Wickenheiser. Columbia, South Carolina: The University of South Carolina Press, 2008. Pp. xvi, 839. $90.00.

It is my pleasure to review here an exciting new edition of Paradise Lost 1667, an essay collection promoting its value, and a catalog of one of the best major collections of Milton ever assembled: the collection of Robert J. Wickenheiser, now housed at the University of South Carolina.

The Poem

This carefully collated, user-friendly edition and transcription of the first edition of Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) rescues readers of Milton's epic from dependence on the imperfect facsimiles of the first edition by Harris Fletcher, David Masson, and the Scolar Press. Such transcriptions have drawn on imperfect or multiple issues (issues are versions of a single edition, because they do not involve setting or resetting of type-see 'Bibliographie Terms,' vii-viii, and further discussion under Lieb's essay, below) of the poem which were, in turn, imperfectly transcribed. This edition, which utilizes a pleasing typeface, contains a list of bibliographic terms, a helpful preface, a list of variants, and a list of printing errors, which were a quite common occurrence in late Renaissance printing. There is also a book-by-book analysis of changes from the first to the second (1674) editions. Two sections entitled "Added Preliminary Material, 1668-9" and "Further Changes in the Second Edition, 1674" conclude the bibliographical analysis of the text. A bibliography rounds out the volume.

The Essays

The edition itself is complemented by a second volume of ten essays on textual and historical questions related to its publication. In "'Back to the Future': Paradise Lost 1667," Michael Lieb argues that Milton scholars have taken the first edition of the poem for granted, and that the second and many later editions cannot be understood without reference to the first. With masterful succinctness, Lieb outlines the changes from the first edition in ten books to the second in twelve: "The transformation is effected not through the addition of two wholly new books but by the division of existing books to reflect a new Gestalt, one in which books 7 and 10 of the ten-book epic are each divided into two: book 7 becomes books 7 and 8, whereas book ten becomes books 11 and 12.... These alterations ... are supplemented by transitional passages and textual revisions amounting to some 15 lines" (p. 6). As Louis Martz has noted, what remains unexplained is why the phrase "Half yet remaines unsung" appears in Book 7, line 21 of the first edition and in all subsequent editions. This line would suggest that Milton intended, from the very first, to write a twelve-book poem in the Vergilian manner, but for reasons unknown followed a ten-book format for the first edition.

The sparseness and simplicity of the first issue of the first edition, a compact ten-book text delivered without prefatory matter, stand in marked contrast to the increasingly complex, almost profligate supplements to the text from later issues of the first edition onward. (Explanatory headnotes were added in later issues of the first edition, as well as Milton's attack on rhyme, and the commendatory poems of Andrew Marvell [English] and Samuel Barrow [?] [Latin].) From the second edition onward, the poem was expanded to twelve books. Subsequent editions include some or all of the following: explanatory notes by Patrick Hume, anthologized excerpts from Joseph Addison (10th and later eds.

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"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books by John Milton": An Authoritative Text of the 1667 First Edition/"Paradise Lost: A Poem Written in Ten Books": Essays on the 1667 First Edition/The Robert J. Wickenheiser Collection of John Milton at the University of South Carolina: A Descriptive Account with Illustrations
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