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It was possibly just before the Great Fire of London in September, 1666, and it certainly cannot have been very long after that event, when Milton, then residing in Artillery Walk, Bunhill Fields, sent the manuscript of his Parallise Lost to receive the official licence necessary for its publication. The duty of licensing such books was then vested by law in the Archbishop of Canterbury, who performed it through his chaplains. The Archbishop of Canterbury at that time (1663-1677) was Dr. Gilbert Sheldon ; and the chaplain to whom it fell to exanıine the manuscript of Paradise Lost was the Rev. Thomas Tomkyns, M.A. of Oxford, then incumbent of St. Mary Aldermary, London, and afterwards Rector of Lambeth and D.D. He was the Archbishop's domestic chaplain, and a very great favourite of his-quite a young man, but already the author of one or two books or pamphlets. The nature of his opinions may be guessed from the fact that his first publication, printed in the year of the Restoration, had been entitled “ The Rebel's Plea Examined ; or, Mr. Baxter's Judgment concerning the Late War. A subsequent publication of his, penned not long after he had examined Paradise Lost, was entitled “The Inconveniencies of Toleration ;” and, when he died in 1675, still young, he was described on his tomb-stone as having been “ Ecclesiae Anglicanæ contra Schismaticos assertor eximius." A manuscript by a man of Milton's political and ecclesiastical antecedents could hardly, one would think, have fallen into the hands of a more unpropitious examiner. It is, accordingly, stated that Tomkyns hesitated about giving the licence, and took exception to some passages in the poem-particularly to that (Book I. vv. 594 -599) where it is said of Satan in his diminished brightness after his fall, that he still appeared
as when the Sun, new-risen,
At length, however, Mr. Tomkyns was satisfied. There still exists the first book of the actual manuscript which had been submitted to him.* It is a fairly written copy, in a light, not inelegant, but rather characterless hand ct the period—of course, not that of Milton himself
, who had been for fourteen years totally blind.
It consists of eighteen leaves of small quarto, stitched together ; and on the inside of the first leaf, or cover, is the following official licence to print in Tomkyns's hand :
Imprimatur : Thor Tomkyns, R mo. in Christo Patri ac Domino, Dno. Gilberto, divinâ Providentiâ Archiepiscopo Cantuariensi, a sacris domesticis.
The other books of the manuscript having received a similar certificate, or this certificate on the MS. of the first book sufficing for all, the copy was ready for publication by any printer or bookseller to whom Milton might consign it. Having already had many dealings with London printers and booksellers, Milton may have had several to whom he could go; but the one whom he favoured in this case, or who favoured him, was a certain Samuel Simmons, having his shop “next door to the Golden Lion in Aldersgate Street.” The dite of the transaction between Simmons and Milton is April 27, 1667. On t!iat day an agreement was signed between them to the following effect :Milton, “in consideration of Five Pounds to him now paid,” gives, grants, and assigns to Simmons “all that Book, Copy, or Manuscript of a Poem “ intituled Paradise Lost, or by whatsoever other title or name the same is or “shall be called or distinguished, now lately licensed to be printed;" on the understanding, however, that, at the end of the first impression of the Book“ which impression shall be accounted to be ended when thirteen hundred books “ of the said whole copy or manuscript imprinted shall be sold or retailed off
to particular reading customers ” —Simmons shall pay to Milton or his repre: sentatives a second sum of Five Pounds; and further that he shall pay a third sum of Five Pounds at the end of a second impression of the same number of copies, and a fourth sum of Five Pounds at the end of a third impression similarly measured. To allow a margin for presentation copies, we suppose, it is provided that, while in the account between Milton and Simmons each of the three first impressions is to be reckoned at 1,300 copies, in the actual printing of each Simmons may go as high as 1,500 copies. At any reasonable request of Milton or his representatives, Simmons, or his executors and assigns, shall be bound to make oath before a Master in Chancery
cerning his or their knowledge and belief of, or concerning the truth of, the
disposing and selling the said books by retail as aforesaid whereby the said “Mr. Milton is to be entitled to his said money from time to time,” or, in default of said oath, to pay the Five Pounds pending on the current impression as if the same were due. +
* The manuscript is described and a facsimile of a portion of it is given, in Mr. S. Leigh Sotheby's Ramblings in elucidation of the Autograph of Milton,” 1861: pp: 196, 197. It was then in the possession of William Baker, Esq. of Bayfordbury, Hertfordshire, to whom ii had descended, with other Milton relics, from the famous publishing family of the Tonsons, connected with him by ancestry.
The original of this document—or rather that one of the two originals which Simmons kept-is now in the British Museum. To the poet's signature “ John Milton” (which, however, is written for him by another hand) is annexed his seal, bearing the family arms of the double-headed eagle; 2:7d the witnesses are “ John Fisher” and “ Benjamin Greene, servt. to Mr. Milton."
It has been inferred from the wording of this document that Milton, before his bargain with Simmons, may have begun the printing of the poem at his own expense. There seems no real ground, however, for thinking so, or that what was handed over to Simmons was anything else than the fairly copied manuscript which had received the imprimatur of Mr. Tomkyns. With that imprimatur Simmons might proceed safely in printing the book and bringing it into the market. Accordingly, on the 20th of August, 1667, or four months after the foregoing agreement, we find this entry in the books of Stationers' Hall:
August 20, 1667: Mr. Sam. Symons entered for his copie, under the hands of Mr. Thomas Tomkyns and Mr. Warden Royston, a book or copie intituled “Paradise Lost, a Poem in Tenne bookes by J. M."
The date of the above entry in the Stationers' registers fixes the time about which printed copies of the Poem were ready for sale in London. There are few books, however, respecting the circumstances of whose first publication there is room for a greater variety of curious questions. This arises from the fact that, among the numerous existing copies of the First Edition, no two are in all particulars exactly alike. They differ in their title-pages, in their dates, and in minute points throughout the text.
There is involved in this, indeed, a fact of general interest to English bibliographers. In the old days of leisurely printing, it was quite common for the printer or the author of a book to make additional corrections while the printing was in progress of which corrections only part of the total impression would have the benefit. Then, as, in the binding of the copies, all the sheets, having or not having the corrections so made, were jumbled together, there was no end to the combinations of different states of sheets that might arise in copies all really belonging to one edition ; besides which, if any change in the proprietorship, or in the author's or publisher's notions of the proper title, arose before all the copies had been bound, it was easy to cancel the first title-page and provide a new one, with a new date if necessary, for the remaining copies. The probability is that these considerations will be found to affect all our early printed books. But they are applicable in a more than usual degree, so far as differences of titlepage are concerned, to the First Edition of Paradise Lost. Here, for example, is a conspectus of the different forms of title-page and other accompaniments of the text of the Poem that have been recognised among existing copies of the First Edition. We arrange them, as nearly as can be judged, in the order in which they were issued.
» is in
First title-page.—“Paradise lost. A Poem written in Ten Books By John Milton Licensed and Entred according to Order. London Printed, and are to be sold by Peter Parker under Creed Church neer Aldgate; And by Robert Boulter at the Turks Head in Bishopsgate-street; And Matthias Walker under St. Dunstons Church in Fleet-street. 1667." to. Pp. 342.
Second title-page.-Same as above, except that the author's name " John Milton sarger type. 1667. 4to. pp. 342.
Third title-page. — “Paradise lost. A Poem in Ten Books. The Author J. M. (initials only). Licensed and Entred according to Order. London Printed &c. [as before, or nearly 30).
1668. 4to. pp. 342. Fourth title-page. -Same as the preceding, but the type in the body of the title larger. 1668.
4to. pp. 342. Fifth title-page.-“ Paradise lost. A Poem in Ten Books. The Author John Milton. London, Printed by S. Simmons, and to be sold by S. Thomson at the Bishops-Head in Duck-lane, H. Mortlack at the White Hart in Westminster Hall, M. Walker under St.
this is not all.
Dunstons Church in Fleet-street, and R. Boulter at the Turks-Head in Bishopsgate-street,
4to. pp: 356. The most notable peculiarity in this issue as compared with its predecessors is the increase of the bulk of the volume by fourteen pages or seven leaves. This is accounted for as follows :-In the preceding issues there had been no Prose Argument, Preface, or other preliminary matter to the text of the poem ; but in this there are fourteen pages of new maiter interpolated between the title-leaf and the poem. First of all there is this three-line advertisement : “ The Printer to the Reader. Courteous Reader, There was “no Argument at first intended to the Book, but for the satisfaction of many that have desired
it, is procured. S. Simmons." Then, accordingly, there follow the prose Arguments to the several' Books, doubtless by Milton himself, all printed together in eleven pages ; after which, in two pages of large open type, comes Milton's preface, entitled “The Verse,” explaining his •reasons for abandoning Rime-succeeded on the fourteenth page by a list of “ Errata.' But
Simmons's three-line Address to the Reader, as given above, is, it will be observed, not grammatically correct; and, whether because Milton had found out this or not, there are soine copies, with this fifth title-page, in which the ungrammatical three-line Address is corrected into a fire-line Address thus-“ The Printer to the Reader. Courteous Reader, “ There was no Argument at first intended to the Book, but for the satisfaction of many that “have desired it, I have procur'd it, and withall a reason of that which stumbled many others, “why the Poem Rimes not. S. Simmons.”
Sixth title-page.-Same as the preceding, except that instead of four lines of stars under the author's name there is a fleur-de-lis ornament. 1668. 4to. pp. 356. Here we have the same preliminary matter as in the preceding. There seem to be some copies, however, with the incorrect three-line Address, and others with the correct five-line Address, of the Prirter.
Seventh title-page.-“ Paradise lost. A Poem in Ten Books, The Author John Milton. London, Printed by S. Simmons, and are to be sold by T. Helder, at the Angel, in LittleBrittain, 1669.” 4to. pp. 356. Some copies with this title-page still retain Simmons's incorrect three-line Address to the Reader, while others have the five-line Address.
Rest of preliminary matter as before.
Eighth and Ninth title-pages.-Same as last, except some insignificant changes of capital letters and of pointing in the words of the title. 1669. 4to. pp. 356.
Here are at least nine distinct forms in which, as respects the title-page, complete copies were issued by the binder, from the first publication of the work about August 1667 on to 1669 inclusively; besides which there are the variations among individual copies arising from the two forms of the Printer's Advertisement, and the variations in the text of the poem arising from the in(liscriminate binding together of sheets in the different states of correctness in which they were printed off. The variations of this last class are of absolutely no moment-a comma in some copies where others have it not; an error in the numbering of the lines, or of a with for an in in some copies rectified in others, &c. On the whole, the text of any existing copy of the First Edition is as perfect as that of any other—though there is an advantage in having a copy with the small list of Errata and the other preliminary matter. But the variations in the title-page are of greater interest. Why is the author's name given in full in the title-pages of 1667, then contracted into “J. M.” in two of those of 1668, and again given in full in two of those of the same year, and in all those of 1669? And why, though Simmons had acquired the copyright in April 1667, and had entered the copyright as his in the Stationers' Books in August 1667, is his name kept out of sight in all the title-pages prior to that one of 1668 which is given as the Fifth in the foregoing list, and which is the first with the preliminary matter—the preceding title-pages showing no printer's name, but only the names of three booksellers at whose shops copies might be had ? Finally, why, after Simmons does think it right to appear on the titlepage, are there changes in the names of the booksellers-two of the former booksellers first disappearing and giving way to other two, and then the three of 1668 giving way in 1669 to the single bookseller, Helder of Little Britain ? Very probably in some of these changes nothing more was involved than
convenience to Simmons in his circumstances at the time. Not impossibly, however, more was involved than this in so much tossing-about of the book within so short a period. May not Simmons have been a little timid about his venture in publishing a book by the notorious Milton, whose attacks on the Church and defences of the execution of Charles I. were still fresh in the memory of all, and some of whose pamphlets had been publicly burnt by the hangman after the Restoration ? May not his entering the book at Stationers Hall simply as "a Poem in Ten Books by J. M.” have been a caution on his part; and, though, in the first issues, he had ventured on the name “John Milton”in full, may he not have found or thought it advisable, for a subsequent circulation in some quarters, to have copies with only the milder “J. M.” upon
In any case, the first edition of Paradise Lost was a most creditably printed book. It is, as has been mentioned, a small quarto-of 342 pages in such copies as are without the “ Argument" and other preliminary matter, and of 356 pages in the copies that have this addition. But the pages are not numbered-only the lines by tens along the margin in each Book. In one or two places there is an error in the numbering of the lines, arising from miscounting. The text in each page is enclosed within lines-single lines at the inner margin and bottom, but double lines at the top for the running title and the number of the Book, and along the outer margin columnwise for the numbering of the lines. Very great care must have been bestowed on the reading of the proofs, either by Milton himself, or by some competent person who had undertaken to see the book through the press for him.. It seems likely that Milton himself caused page after page to be read over slowly to him, and occasionally even the words to be spelt out. There are, at all events, certain systematic peculiarities of spelling and punctuation which it seems most reasonable to attribute to Milton's own instructions. Altogether, for a book printed in such circumstances, it is wonderfully accurate ; and, in all the particulars of type, paper, and general getting-up, the first appearance of Paradise Lost must have been rather attractive than otherwise to book-buyers of that day.
The selling price of the volume was three shillings, which is perhaps as if a simi.ar book now were published at about ios. 6. From the retail.sale of 1,300 copies, therefore, the sum that would come in to Simmons, if we make an allowance for trade-deductions at about the modern rate, would be something under 1401. Out of this had to be paid the expenses of printing, &c., and the sum agreed upon with the author; and the balance would be Sim. mons's profit. On the whole, though he cannot have made anything extraordinary by the transaction, it must have been sufficiently remunerative. For, by the 26th of April 1669, or after the poem had been published a little over eighteen months, the stipulated impression of 1,300 copies had been exhausted. The proof exists in the shape of Milton's receipt (signed for him by another hand) for the additional Five Pounds due to him on that contingency: –
April 26, 1669. Received then of Samuel Simmons five pounds, being the Second five pounds to be paid mentioned in the Covenant. I say recd. by me.
John Milton. Witness, Edmund Upton.
Thus, by the month of April 1669, Milton had received in all Ten Pounds for his Paradise Lost. This was all that he was to receive for it in his life.