[Milton-L] PL: the gap between the early editions

Jonathan Olson jonathan.olson at gmail.com
Fri May 5 04:59:40 EDT 2017

That quotation from the Morgan Library's online exhibit strikes me as
simply using Amory's idiosyncratic argument to justify why the public might
care about a title-page that not only appears to be not the first
title-page (it's usually considered the third of six), but is not even
dated in the first year of publication: "But what if it were the first?!"

It's been ten years since I read the history of scholarship trying to sort
out the chronology of the PL title pages, so I'm a bit rusty. But if I
remember Amory's article correctly (I presume the Morgan Library is
referring to his 1983 article in *The Book Collector*) he was not arguing
that no copies of the poem were issued until 1668, but that the poem was
issued in 1667 with three different title-pages--two dated 1667 and one
dated 1668--and that Simmons issued the 1668 title-page with Milton's
initials before the two 1667 title-pages with Milton's name spelled out.

As alluded to on the Morgan webpage, Amory's argument for the priority of
this title-page rests on its similarity to the entry in the Stationers'
Register. In fact Amory cites two similarities: identification of the
author by initials as well as the fact that the stationers' entry is
phrased "A Poem in Tenne bookes by I.M." Amory notes that the two 1667
title-pages read "A Poem *Written *in Ten Books" but that the 1668
title-page with initials reads "A Poem in Ten Books" like the SR entry.

I don't find this convincing enough. I think the 1668 title-page with
initials has more continuity with the other 1668 title-page and the two
1669 title-pages because all four lack the word "Written" and all four also
read "The Author" in place of the "by" used in both 1667 title-pages and
the Stationers' Register.

I think the variant of the title-page in question--with a period/full stop
after "Books"--also favors it following the 1667 title-pages. The addition
of a period would have been necessitated by a shift from "A Poem Written in
Ten Books by John Milton" (first and second title pages) to "A Poem in Ten
Books. The Author John Milton" (third through sixth title-pages). As a
stop-press correction it makes more sense as the third title-page.

There's also the matter of the imprint date. I believe the only reason to
regard this title-page as misdated is that Amory's argument for its
priority requires that it must have been misdated.

I'm happy to be corrected if I've misremembered or misrepresented Amory's
argument! As I said it's been a while.

Very best,

Dr. Jonathan R. Olson
Assistant Professor of English
Honors College
Grand Canyon University
3300 West Camelback Road
Phoenix AZ 85017
United States

On Thu, May 4, 2017 at 10:35 PM, JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>

> Looking into 'why the longish gap –1667 to 1672– between PL Eds 1 & 2,' I
> find this astonishing note from the Pierpont Morgan Library that A) not a
> single copy of the 1667 Ed 1 was issued in 1667; B) the first issuance was
> in 1668, and bore a "1668" title page; C) because the publisher witheld
> "1667" copies until it became clear Milton's poem was not dying in
> controversy but rather flying off the shelves:
> <<
> [image: milton_pml19262.jpg] <http://www.themorgan.org/node/1154/zoomify>
> The bibliographer Hugh Amory argues persuasively for this being the
> earliest issue of the first edition of Paradise Lost (despite its title
> page, dated 1668), in which the anonymous author is identified only by his
> initials, "J. M." Similarly, the author is identified in the Stationers'
> Register on 20 August 1667 by his initials only. Amory speculates that
> Samuel Simmons, the printer and publisher of the first edition, decided
> against using Milton's full name on the title page "as the day of
> publication approached," substituting this version on which the author
> remained anonymous. Simmons's faltering confidence is understandable
> because Milton, a prominent supporter of regicide (he defended the
> execution of Charles I), was still widely regarded as a dangerous radical
> when Paradise Lost was first published.>>
> Apparently we may be celebrating the 350th one year early. -Carl
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