Milton's Quatercentenary

2008 is John Milton’s quatercentenary. As one of many events celebrating the author this year, Professor Nigel Smith spoke Thursday at Labyrinth Books on his new book, Is Milton Better than Shakespeare? Professor Smith pointed, in particular, to Milton’s ability to merge poetry with conversation and urged audience members who were not convinced to simply read Paradise Lost.

Firestone Library holds 610 editions of works by Milton including four copies of the first edition of Paradise Lost from 1667. Rare Books and Special Collections boasts 62 illustrated editions of Milton, beginning with the first illustrated Paradise Lost, published in 1688 with engravings by M. Burghers and Peter Paul Bouche after designs John Baptist Medina and Bernard Lens. Rare Books (Ex) Oversize 3859.369.142q

Pictured here is the first edition illustrated in color: Le Paradis perdu (Paris: Chez Defer de Maisonneuve, 1792). Graphic Arts division (GAX) Oversize PR3561.F5 D8 1792q. For this edition, Frédéric-Jean Schall (1752-1825) created a series of paintings specifically to be used as designs for engraved illustrations to this bilingual edition. Twelve stipple engravings were printed à la poupée, that is, with hand-painted application of colored inks to sections of the copper plate before printing. Each sheet had to be inked and printed separately, significantly limiting the edition’s print run, but adding enormous beauty and charm to the volume.