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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.
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." 4to. pp. 342.
Second' title-page. — Same as above, except that the author's name " John Milton” is in larger 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 so]: 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.
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 prede. cessors 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 matter 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 Argu“ment 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 this is not all. Simmons's three-line Address to the Reader, as given above, is, it will be ob. served, not grammatically correct; and, whether because Milton had found out this or not, there are some copies, with this fifth title-page, in which the ungrammatical three-line Address is corrected into a five-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 Printer.
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 indiscriminate 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
:- 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 vari. ations 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 1968 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 burned 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 them?
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 similar book now were published at about ios. 6d. 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 Simmons'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.
For, contrary to what might have been expected after a sale of the first edition in eighteen months, there was no second edition for five years more, or till 1674. Either the book was out of print for these five years, or what demand for it there continued to be was supplied out of the surplus of 200 copies which, for some reason or other, Simmons had been authorized to print beyond the 1,300. But in 1674 - the last year of Milton's life --- a second edition did appear, with the following title:
“Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books. The Author John Milton. The Second Edition Revised and Augmented by the same Author. London, Printed by S. Simmons next door to the Golden Lion in Aldersgate-street, 1674."
This edition is in small octavo, with the pages numbered, but with no marginal numbering of the lines — the pages of the text as numbered being 333. There are prefixed two sets of commendatory verses — the one in Latin signed “ S. B., M.D.,” and written by a certain Samuel Barrow, a physician and a private friend of Milton; the other in English, signed “ A. X1.," and written by Andrew Marvel. But the most important difference between this and the previous edition is that, whereas the poem had been arranged in Ten Books in the first, it is here arranged in Twelve. This is accomplished by dividing what had formerly been the two longest Books of the poem Books VII. and X.into two Books each. There is a corresponding division in the “ Arguments” of these Books; and the “ Arguments," instead of being given in a body at the beginning, are prefixed to the Books to which they severally apply. To smooth over the breaks made by the division of the two Books, the three new lines were added which now form the beginning of Book VIII. and the five that begin Book XII.; and there are one or two other slight additions or alterations, also dictated by Milton, in the course of the text, besides a few verbal variations, such as would arise in reprinting. On the whole the Second Edition, though very correct, is not so nice-looking a book as the First.
Four years sufficed to exhaust the Second Edition; and in 1678 (i.e. four years after Milton's death) a Third Edition appeared with this title: “ Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books. The Author John Milton. The Third Edition. Revised and Augmented by the same Author. London, Printed by S. Simmons, next door to the Golden Lion in Aldersgate Street, 1678.” This edition is in small octavo, and in other respects the same as its predecessor, save that there are a few verbal variations in the printing. It is of no independent value the Second Edition being the last that could have been supervised by Milton himself. From the appearance of a third edition in 1678, however, it is to be inferred that by that time the second of those impressions of 1,300 copies which had to be accounted for to the author was sold off (implying perhaps a total circulation up to that time of 3,000 copies), and that, consequently, had the author been alive, he would have been then entitled to his third sum of Five Pounds, as by the agreement. Milton being dead, the sum was due to his widow. Whether, however, on account of disputes which existed between the widow and Milton's three daughters by his first wife as to the inheritance of his property (disputes which were the subject of a law-suit in 1674-5), or for other reasons, Simmons was in no hurry to pay the third Five Pounds. It was not till the end of 1680 that he settled with the widow, and then in a manner of which the following receipt given by her is a record :
I do hereby acknowledge to have received of Samuel Symonds, Cittizen and Stationer of London, the Sum of Eight pounds: which is in full payment for all my right, Title, or Interest, which I'have, or ever had in the Coppy of a Poem Intitled Paradise Lost in Twelve Bookes in 8vo. By John Milton, Gent., my late husband. Witness my hand this 21st day of December, 1680.
ELIZABETH MILTON. Witness, William Yapp.
That is to say, Simmons, owing the widow Five Pounds, due since 1678, and in prospect of soon owing her other Five Pounds on the current impression of the Poem, preferred, or consented, to compound for the Ten by a payment of Eight in December 1680. The total sum which he could in any case have been called upon to pay for Paradise Lost by his original agreement was 20l. (for the agreement did not look beyond three impressions of 1,300 copies each); and the total sum which he did pay was 181. If he thus got off 21. it was probably to oblige the widow, who may have been anxious to realize all she could of her late husband's property at once before leaving town. There is, indeed, a subsequent document from which it would appear as if Simmons feared having farther trouble from the widow. It is a document, dated April 29, 1681, by which she formally releases Samuel Simmons, his heirs, executors, and administrators for ever, from “all and all manner of action and actions, “cause and causes of action, suits, bills, bonds, writings obligatory, debts,
dues, duties, accounts, sum and sums of moneys, judgments, executions, “extents, quarrels either in law or equity, controversies and demands, and all “and every other matter, cause, and thing whatsoever, which against the said “Samuel Simmons” she ever had, or which she, her heirs, executors, or administrators should or might have "by reason or means of any matter, cause, “or thing whatsoever, from the beginning of the world unto the day of these “presents.” About the most comprehensive release possible !
From 1680, accordingly, neither Milton's widow, nor his daughters, had any share or interest whatever in the sale of Paradise Lost. The sole property in it was vested in the printer Simmons. Nor did he keep it long. Shortly after his last agreement with the widow he transferred his entire interest in the poem to another bookseller, Brabazon Aylmer, for twenty-five pounds. But on the 17th of August, 1683, Aylmer sold half of his right at a considerably advanced price to the famous bookseller, Jacob Tonson, who had begun business in 1677, and was already introducing a new era in the book-trade by his dealings with Dryden and others; and in March, 1690, Tonson bought the other half of the copyright. What are called the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions, accordingly, were all issued by Tonson. The fourth was issued in 1688, in folio, with a portrait by White, and other illustrations, and a list of more than 500 subscribers, including the most eminent persons of the day some copies including Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, and having the general title of Milton's Poetical Works. The fifth appeared in 1692, also in folio; and with Paradise Regained appended. The sixth was published in 1695, also in large folio and with illustrations, both separately, and also bound up with all the rest of the poems under the general title of “The Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton.” This edition was accompanied by what is in reality the first commentary on the poem, and also one of the best. It consists of no fewer than 321 folio pages of Annotations, under this title, “ Annotations on Milton's “Paradise Lost : wherein the texts of Sacred Writ relating to the Poem are