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Illustration from Book II of Paradise Lost

Milton, John, 1608-1674.
The Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton. London: Printed for Jacob Tonson at Shakespear's Head in the Strand, 1720. 2 Volumes.
Call Number: (SPL) PR 3550 .D20
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

This collected edition of Milton's works was the first to be printed by Jacob Tonson's heir, nephew and namesake, Jacob Tonson II. The elder Tonson retired to Paris in 1719, where he remained for the rest of his life.

His nephew wished to make his own distinctive mark on an edition of Milton and contracted with Thomas Tickell to edit the deluxe edition. Tickell however, did little more than slavishly copy his text from the preceding 1719 Tonson edition, continuing to perpetuate textual errors.

First page of Book I of Paradise Lost

Jacob Tonson II also sought new illustrations for this edition of Milton and hired two of the foremost subject painters in England during the first quarter of the eighteenth century, Sir James Thornhill and Louis Cheron. These artists embodied eighteenth-century French classicism and left behind all of Medina's Gothic baroque styles. Each book consists of three illustrated pieces, an historiated initial capital and a headpiece occupying the upper two-thirds of each title page in addition to a tailpiece at the end of each book.

This edition was reprinted only once, and Tonson quickly reverted to Medina's designs in subsequent editions. It would seem that Medina's illustrations had more popular appeal.

This copy exhibits a printer's error on the title page to Book One with the text overlapping the headpiece.


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Prepared by Christopher Barth, Virginia Haas, and Sarah McDaniel