MILTON, John (1608-1674). Paradise Lost. A Poem in Ten Books. London: Printed by S. Simmons, and to be sold by S. Thomson, H. Mortlack, M. Walker and R. Boulter, 1668.
Small 4o (181 x 131 mm). Two title-pages (see variants below), with seven leaves containing "The Printer to the Reader," "The Argument," "The Verse" and "Errata". (N3 with short marginal tear, a few insignificant foxmarks.) Modern dark blue morocco, gilt-lettered on spine, small crest on covers stamped in gilt, board edges gilt, turn-ins gilt, edges gilt; preserving two flyleaves from an earlier binding, the rear flyleaf a portion of the ream wrapper with the papermaker's mark stamped in red.
Provenance: unidentified owner (reference in Deakin's letter below), gift to -- John Osmond Deakin (late 18th-early 19th century), Reader and Preacher at St. Mary's: ALS bound in at front -- Thomas Frognall Didbin (1776-1847), English bibliographer: ALS bound in at front, giving the book to -- Sir Francis Freeling (1764-1836), English postal reformer, member of the Roxburghe Club: gilt crest on covers -- Joseph Neald (19th century): armorial bookplate -- Frederic Dannay, sale, Christie's New York, 16 December 1983, lot 242.
FIRST EDITION, Amory's no. 2 issue (Shawcross's 4th) with imprint of S. Simmons (traditionally the fourth title-page) and containing his no. 1a FIRST TITLE-PAGE with imprint of Peter Parker bound at front (traditionally the third title-page). Of this first edition, 1,200 copies are thought to have been printed and the issues are distinguished by the imprints on the title-pages. The text of the work is identical in all cases, save for a few typographical errors.
This is a copy with a distinguished provenance, containing revealing autograph letters bound at front. The earlier letter (bound after the later) is from John Osmond Deakin, 7 John St., Oxford St., 19 December 1826, to Dibdin, 2 pp., 8vo, explaining the gift: "In disturbing the sanctity of cobwebs wch have taken possession of my books at Camb: I discovered a first Edition of Milton (with the title pages of 1668) wch I think will receive more regard from you than it does from me... You set a value on the 'genus' to wch this book belongs, and it cannot be under better protection than yours... The binding is I believe the original one, it having been given to me by a member of an old family and a possessor of an old library." The second letter is by Thomas Frognall Dibdin, n.p., Xmas Day 1826, to an unnamed correspondent (Sir Francis Freeling), 4 pp., 8vo. In it, Dibdin explains the gift of this copy of Paradise Lost from Deakin: "a clean, sound & unsophisticated copy of the first edition ... with the two title-pages ... The book hath its original sheepskin binding." He offers it to Freeling as a Christmas present. Four cut stubs show evidence of other letters in the correspondence which probably concern this copy before rebinding.
Hugh Amory, "Things Unattempted Yet," in The Book Collector, Spring 1983, pp. 41-66; Grolier English 33; Shawcross 299 ("Edition 1, issue 4"); Wing M2139; Wither to Prior 602.