Arion Lyre

64. Paradise Lost by John Milton

Paradise Lost by John Milton, the poem in twelve books, edited and with a note on the text by John T. Shawcross, introduction by Helen Vendler, 2002. As of 2004, the book edition is sold only with publication number 69, a portfolio of thirteen watercolor drawings by William Blake depicting incidents in the poem.

Paradise Lost was composed after 1652, when Milton had gone blind, dictated from memory to a secretary. Of that transcription, only a manuscript for Book I survives, in the collection of the Morgan Library in New York City, its spelling, punctuation, capitalization altered in the earliest printed versions. Inconsistent writing practices and recopying by different scribes, numerous corrections in manuscript, and the application of house styles and commission of errors by printers contributed to the unreliability of the text. Changes by a succession of publishers reflected current typographic conventions and scholarship. Mistakes and inconsistencies were often perpetuated. Professor John T. Shawcross, an eminent Miltonist at the University of Kentucky, has developed a new modernized text for the Arion edition. His appended "Note on the Text" explains the modifications. We believe that this presentation is a significant advance over earlier versions.

Paradise LostBlake portfolio

Helen Vendler, the respected literary critic and University Professor at Harvard, has contributed to several Arion Press books: making selections of the poetry of Wallace Stevens, W. B. Yeats, and Herman Melville, and writing introductions for these and works by other poets, including John Ashbery, Allen Ginsberg, Czeslaw Milosz, and William Shakespeare. Her substantial essay introducing Paradise Lost was done in preparation for a planned study of Paradise Regained, which she feels deserves renewed attention. She writes that to grasp the poem's enormity readers make their own reductions, citing how John Keats marked in his copy and what William Blake responded to in the epic. For Vendler Paradise Lost can be understood as a meditation on aftermaths: what follows upon the angels' fall, once the Tempter knows Sin and Sin knows Death; how the Flood, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah were caused by sin; after the Fall its gravest aftermath being the death of the Son of God. Beyond Atonement comes the Resurrection, the possibility of "a paradise within thee, happier far", a symbol of hope. Her essay concludes with a romantic touch, noting the frequency of hand-holding by Adam and Eve throughout the poem, even to the last lines:

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

This edition of Paradise Lost pays typographic tribute to two earlier editions of Milton's epic poem: the second edition of 1674, the year of the poet's death, when the text was divided into twelve books rather than ten as in the first edition of 1667, and the second Baskerville edition of 1759. John Baskerville (1706/7-1775) of Birmingham, England, was a great printer whose type, known by his name, is a face that endures today in general use. The type is clean, spare, understated, readable, handsome in proportion and evenness of color. Historians of type call it a transitional face, coming between old style (Caslon) and modern (Bodoni). The Monotype Corporation used the type in Baskerville's Milton of 1758 as a model when it made its version of Baskerville in 1923, and it is from the Monotype cutting that we have cast the type for this book, in the 14-point size, only slightly smaller than the letters in the 1759 edition.

The arrangement of our pages emulates those of Baskerville, but with significant differences, so as not to be slavishly imitative, yet to exercise our own abilities. The Arion page format is 10 by 6-7/8 inches, close to the 1759 edition, which has been trimmed to 9-3/4 by 6-3/4 inches, while an untrimmed copy in the Baskerville collection of William P. Barlow, Jr., is about 10 by 7-1/2 inches, more "quarto" in appearance. The position of line numbers in the 1759 edition is flush right, full measure, varying from page to page because the five-line indicators appear irregularly on 28-line pages. We chose a 30-line standard page, with the opening pages of books at 25 lines, enabling us to place the line numbers at regular intervals outside the text block, flush left on verso pages, flush right on recto pages, and giving definition to the outer margins.

In homage to the 1674 printing, we have employed a black-letter type in running heads, Goudy Text, designed by the most prolific American designer, Frederic W. Goudy. It is used for other display purposes and as the figures for page numbers in the upper corners above the line numbers, which are set in 11/12 point Baskerville, the size of the small capitals for the book numbers in roman numerals on the running heads at the gutters, the contents, introduction, Arguments, the note on the Verse, the note on the text, and the colophon. The volume consists of 432 pages.

The binding is full black linen over boards, round back, headbands, in slipcase covered with the same cloth, with inset purple leather labels stamped in genuine gold for the titling on both book and slipcase.


Paradise Lost is the sixty-fourth publication of Arion Press. The book edition is limited to 400 numbered copies and 26 lettered copies. The book is priced at $1,200. The portfolio is the sixty-ninth publication of Arion Press and will not exceed the limitation of the book. It is priced at $1,300 and sold only with the book. The combined price of the book and portfolio is $2,500. Available

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Edition: The book is sold only with publication no. 69, the William Blake watercolor portfolio. The format is 10 by 6-7/8 inches, 432 pages. The binding is full black linen over boards, in slipcase, with inset purple leather labels stamped in gold. The book is limited to an edition of 400 numbered copies for sale, and the portfolio edition is not to exceed the limitation of the book. Price for the book and portfolio set: $2,500.

Order the book and portfolio securely online now:

Reserve now and pay offline:

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Blake 1 Blake 7 Blake 10 Blake 12

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