"THE ARGUMENT FOR FREEDOM HAS NEVER… BEEN SO MAGNIFICENTLY EXPRESSED": FIRST COLLECTED EDITION OF MILTON'S PROSE WORKS, 1697
MILTON, John. The Works of Mr. John Milton. No place: no printer, 1697. Folio (8-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches), contemporary full brown calf rebacked, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, red morocco spine label.
First collected edition of Milton's prose works, including his timeless Areopagitica, which would become "the first Milton book published in America (1774)," a handsome folio volume in contemporary calf boards.
This massive folio volume notably includes Milton's finest prose works: Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, Eikonoclastes, and his landmark Areopagitica, in which "the argument for freedom has never, before or since, been so magnificently or forcefully expressed" (PMM 133). Areopagitica, in particular, "was the first Milton book published in America (1774) and its arguments have continued to echo down the centuries in defense of liberal ideas of toleration and intellectual freedom" (Lewalski in Bloom, ed, John Milton, 322). In his lifetime, Milton was renowned more for his rhetoric than poetry: "a fiery pamphleteer in an age of religious and political argument, whose tireless defense of divorce, progressive education, regicide and the Commonwealth marked him out as a natural, and brilliant, English radical" (Robert McCrum). However, "within 25 years of his death, five biographies were in print—an unprecedented number even for a great statesman, which he was not… Milton's reputation, shorn of its denigration and divinity, seems now to rest on grounds more secure than ever" (Ruoff, 294, 298). With mispagination as issued without loss of text, as in Pforzheimer, but with final blank 4C4 lacking in the Pforzheimer copy. With replaced front free endpaper, without rear free endpaper. Pforzheimer 728. Wing M2086. This copy is from the library of esteemed Milton scholar Edward Harold Physick, with the title page containing his owner inscription in his pen name of E.H. Visiak, used in his novels. With his lightly penciled underlining and marginalia. Small shelf label.
Interior quite fresh with only tiny wormholes to lower corner of three early leaves, title page with small gutter edge-tear not affecting text, repaired closed tear at lower edge, slight rubbing to boards. A very good folio volume with a distinctive provenance.