The Only Surviving Manuscript of John Milton’s Paradise Lost Gets Published in Book Form for the First Time

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake adds a note to the text that became a famous adage about John Milton’s Paradise Lostthe 10,000-line, 17th century blank verse epic about the war between heaven and hell and the failed testing of God’s premium product, human beings. Milton “wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels & God, and at liberty when he wrote Devils & Hell,” Blake declared, “because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” The statement inspired “other Romantic and Gothic writers to view Satan as a hero,” the British Library writes.

Blake himself illustrated Paradise Lost in three separate commissions over the course of his career as an engraver and printer. His deep admiration for the poem helped it become a “Bible of the Romantic movement,” writes the manuscript publisher SP Books in their introduction to a rare new book publication of the only surviving manuscript of the work.

Only 1,000 numbered, large format copies of this printing are available. (We do hope a subsequent edition will appear, maybe with a transcription and annotations. But it will not be as beautiful as this sky-blue cloth-covered book with Blake’s full-color illustrations.)

The book preserves the only part of the poem that survives in manuscript: 798 lines from Book One of Paradise Lost. These are not in Milton’s hand — he had been blind since 1652, and the poem was first published in 1667. He conceived the epic in his 50s, his career in government over after the English Civil Wars and the brief period of the Cromwells’ Protectorate ended in the Restoration of Charles II. “Milton composed ‘Paradise Lost’ aloud, in bed or (per witnesses) ‘leaning backwards obliquely in an easy chair,'” Lauren Christensen writes at The New York Times, “memorizing the stanzas to be transcribed in another’s hand.”

These first few hundred lines show why Satan seems so noble to Milton’s readers; speeches by and about him portray his doomed campaign as a righteous assault on heavenly tyranny. The Romantics’ use of Paradise Lost reflects their own preoccupations, while also echoing contemporary suspicions of the poem. “The authorities were concerned,” for example, Tom Paulin notes at The London Review of Books, by an image in Book One describing Satan:

as when the sun new ris’n
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or from behind the moon
In dim eclipse disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change

Perplexes monarchs.

“According to Milton’s early biographer, the Irish republican John Toland, Charles II’s Licenser for the Press regarded these lines as subversive,” Paulin points out, “and wanted to suppress the whole poem.” It’s surprising he was able to publish at all. Milton had vociferously supported the Puritan revolutionaries who overthrew the king’s father, Charles I, and removed his head. Milton later published several pamphlets in defense of regicide. In 1660, when Richard Cromwell’s Protectorate fell apart and Charles II returned, Milton’s works were banned by royal decree and the poet went into hiding until a general pardon.

Later critics have pointed to Milton’s political writings as evidence that he knew exactly whose party he was of. California State University’s Michael Bryson has gone so far as to argue that Milton was a secret atheist. In any case, he was a passionate believer in the overthrow of kings and the establishment of republics (for which he has become a libertarian hero). Paulin sums up the critical case for Paradise Lost as an allegory for the “lost cause” of the revolution:

Milton knew that the poem he was dictating to his amaneuensis would be scrutinized by the recently restored monarch’s Licenser of the Press, so he coded the English people’s formation of a republic as the creation of the “heavens and earth.” The idea passed the censor by, just as it has passed by many readers, but it was nonetheless Milton’s founding intention in composing his epic.

The charge that Milton made Satan a hero is hard to ignore when, reading Book One, we find the poet giving the Chief of Fallen Angels the best lines, as anyone who’s read Paradise Lost will remember. If you haven’t, just see the classic example below.

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Learn more about this rare manuscript edition at The New York Times‘ review and purchase one (if one remains) at SP Books.

Related Content:

John Milton’s Hand Annotated Copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio: A New Discovery by a Cambridge Scholar

The Otherworldly Art of William Blake: An Introduction to the Visionary Poet and Painter

Spenser and Milton (Free Course) 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Beautiful Taschen Art Books on Sale Through Sunday: 25%-75% Off

FYI, from now until Sunday, the art book publisher Taschen is running a summer sale, letting you enjoy up to 75% off of hundreds of display copies of fine arts books–some of which we’ve featured here before. Some titles include:

Enter the sale here. And keep in mind that some of the books sell out quickly.

Note that Taschen is a partner of ours. So if you purchase a book, it helps support Open Culture.

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A Special New, Two-Volume Collection of Philip K. Dick Stories Comes Illustrated by 24 Different Artists

Philip K. Dick’s multiple worlds have appeared in increasingly better editions since the author passed away in 1982. In the 21st century, respectable hardbacks and quality paper have fully replaced yellowed, pulpy pages. Maybe no edition yet is more attractive than the Folio Society of London’s two-volume hardback set of Dick’s selected short stories, illustrated by 24 different artists and including tales that have survived film adaptations, for better and worse, like “Paycheck,” “The Minority Report,” and “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” The books will set you back $125, but that’s a small sum compared to the price of an earlier, four-volume Complete Short Stories, published in a limited edition of 750, day-glo, hand-numbered copies. These sold out in less than 48 hours and now go for $2,500 in rare online sales.

In death Dick has achieved what he sought in his writing life: success as literary author. He thought he would eventually publish his realist fiction to earn the reputation, vowing in 1960 that he would “take twenty to thirty years to succeed as a literary writer.” Instead, he’s famous for great fiction that just happens to use the idiom of sci-fi to ask, as he wrote in an undelivered 1978 speech: “What is reality?” and “What constitutes an authentic human being?”

We tend to associate these existential, pre-post-modernist questions with novels and novellas from the 60s and 70s that communicate Dick’s paranoid worldview — works nominated for a Nebula Award, for example, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the source for the best of the film adaptations, Blade Runner.

Dick first won fame in 1963 when he was given the Hugo Award for The Man in the High Castle, a book that exceeds the boundaries of genre to become, unmistakably, a PKD original. His earlier stories, on the other hand, written throughout the 1950s when the author was in his twenties, tend to follow the conventions of the hard sci-fi of the time, with the same themes of space travel, robotics, and other futuristic technology that predominate in Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Superficially, there might seem little to distinguish Dick’s early stories from other writing of the time published in pulps like Science Fiction Quarterly, Galaxy Science Fictionand IF

But the early stories show the unmistakable touch of the later novelist. There are the flashes of humor, absurdity, deep insight into the human psyche, and the warmth and empathy Dick’s narrative voice never lost even in his most bizarre fugues. In his first published story, “Roog,” sold in 1951, Dick imagines a dog who believes the garbage men come to steal the family’s food, leaving only the empty metal storage can behind. “Certainly, I decided,” he writes, “that dog sees the world quite differently than I do, or any humans. And then I began to think, maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world, a world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans.”

It’s a short leap from these thoughts to the idea that there might be no singular reality at all to fight over. Back then, he says, “I had no idea that such fundamental issues could be pursued in the science fiction field. I began to pursue them unconsciously.” His unconscious led him, in 1954’s “Adjustment Team” — the source of a less-than-great film — to imagine another dog, one who talks and interferes in human affairs (a detail omitted, thankfully, from The Adjustment Bureau). Dick’s early stories often featured comical animals — such as the Okja-like Martian pig in “Beyond Likes the Wub,” a highly-intelligent creature capable of telepathy and deep feeling. While he would turn his attention from animals and aliens to androids, alternate realities, and altered states of consciousness, Dick always had the ability to turn the genre of science fiction into a literary tool for the most daring of philosophical investigations.

Learn more about the two-volume Folio Society Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick here.

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: An Animated Chapter-by-Chapter Breakdown of the Ancient Chinese Treatise

Though not a long book, The Art of War is nevertheless an intimidating one. Composed in the China of the fifth century BC, it comes down to us as perhaps the definitive analysis of military strategy, applicable equally to East, West, antiquity, and modernity alike. Hence the minor but still-productive industry that puts forth adaptations, extensions, and reinterpretations of The Art of War for non-military settings, transposing its lessons into law, business, sports, and other realms besides. But if you want a handle on what its author, the general and strategist Sun Tzu, actually wrote, watch the illustrated video above.

A production of Youtube channel Eudaimonia, previously featured here on Open Culture for a similarly animated exegesis of Machiavelli’s The Prince, it runs more than two and a half hours in full. Far though it exceeds the length of the average explainer video, it does reflect the tendency of Sun Tzu’s succinct observations to expand, when seriously considered, into much wider and more complex discussions. To each of the original text’s chapters the Eudaimonia video devotes a ten-to-fifteen-minute section, conveying not just the content of its lessons but also their relevance to the history of human conflict in the roughly two and a half millennia since they were written.

In chapter two, on waging war, Sun Tzu writes that “in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger.” It was in this spirit that, during the Second World War, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Information launched a media “anger campaign” meant to “increase resolve against the Germans, as until then, the British had little sense of real hostility towards the average German.” In the chapter on weaknesses and strengths, Sun Tzu recommends “the divine art of subtlety and secrecy” as a means of becoming invisible and inaudible to the enemy — much as Julius Caesar did in the Gallic Wars, when he sent scouting ships “painted in Venetian blue, which was a similar color to that of the sea.”

Other examples come from diverse chapters of history. These include the American Civil War, Gandhi’s negotiation of Indian independence, the Napoleonic Wars, the British defeat in Zululand, Joan of Arc’s siege of Orléans, the revolt against the Turkish led by T. E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia), and even Steve Jobs’ turnaround of a nearly bankrupt Apple. Most of us will never find ourselves in situations of quite these stakes. But given that none of us can entirely avoid dealing with conflict, we’d could do worse than to keep the guidance of Sun Tzu on our side.

Related content:

Machiavelli’s The Prince Explained in an Illustrated Film

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What Ancient Chinese Philosophy Can Teach Us About Living the Good Life Today: Lessons from Harvard’s Popular Professor, Michael Puett

Hear an Ancient Chinese Historian Describe The Roman Empire (and Other Voices of the Past)

How Many U.S. Marines Could Bring Down the Roman Empire?

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Enter the Franz Kafka Caption Contest for a Chance to Win a New Book of the Author’s Drawings (Until June 13)

Imagine if Franz Kafka were charged with picking the winning entries in The New Yorker’s weekly cartoon caption contest.

The punchlines might become a little more obscure.

If that idea fills you with perverse pleasure, perhaps you should toddle over to Yale University Press’s Instagram to contribute some possible captions for eight of the inky drawings the tortured author made in a black notebook between 1901 and 1907.

The intended meaning of these images, included in the new book, Franz Kafka: The Drawings, are as up for grabs as any uncaptioned cartoon on the back page of The New Yorker.

In Conversations with Kafka, author Gustav Janouch recalled how their significance proved elusive even to their creator, and also the frustration his friend expressed regarding his artistic abilities:

I should so like to be able to draw. As a matter of fact, I am always trying to. But nothing comes of it. My drawings are purely personal picture writing, whose meaning even I cannot discover after a time.

Kafka seems to have gone easier on himself in a 1913 letter to fiancée Felice Bauer:

I was once a great draftsman, you know… These drawings gave me greater satisfaction in those days—it’s years ago—than anything else.

Artist Philip Hartigan, who referenced the drawings in a journal and sketchbook class for writing students nails it when he describes how Kafka’s “quick minimum movements … convey the typical despairing mood of his fiction in just a few lines.”

You have until June 13 to make explicit what Kafka did not by leaving your proposed caption for each drawing as a comment on Yale University Press’s Instagram, along the hashtag #KafkaCaptionContest.

Winners will receive a copy of  Franz Kafka: The Drawings. Entries will be judged by editor Andreas Kilcher of and theorist Judith Butler, who contributed an essay that you might consider mining for material:

Was it a muffled death? Or perhaps it was no death at all, just a tumbling of intercourse, a sexual flurry?

Yes, that might go nicely with Kafka’s drawing of a seated figure collapsed over a table, below.

Some alternate proposals from contest hopefuls:

I needed to bathe my battered knuckles with my tears.

He studied his newly acquired rare stamp with a powerful loupe.

How can I make sure that all my letters and papers will be destroyed after my death? I know – I’ll ask my closest friend to take care of it!

This last is a reference to Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, who defied Kafka’s explicit wish that all of his work be burned upon his death, save The Metamorphosis, and five short stories: The Judgment, The Stoker, In the Penal Colony, A Country Doctor and A Hunger Artist.

Brod cut Kafka’s drawing of the standing figure, above, from his sketchbook and kept in an envelope with a few others. Some of the current caption suggestions for this haunting, never before seen image:

my face is an umbrella to my tears

I couldn’t face myself.

I am the Walrus goo goo g’joob

Of the eight drawings in the caption contest, Drinker, may offer the most narrative possibilities. A representative sampling of the inventiveness that’s come over the transom thusfar:

I, period

Angered by the impudence of the cabernet, i had only the courage to berate its shadow

Waiter! There’s a roach in my wine.

Enter Yale University Press’ Kafka Caption Contest (or get a feel for the competition) here. Entries will be accepted through June 13. Full contest rules are here. Good luck!

Explore the drawings and other contents of Franz Kafka’s black notebook here.

Purchase Franz Kafka: The Drawings, the first book to publish the entirety of the author’s graphic output, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Werner Herzog’s New Novel, The Twilight World, Tells the Story of the WWII Japanese Soldier Who Famously Refused to Surrender

As everyone knows, Japan conceded defeat in the Second World War on August 15, 1945. But as many also know, certain individual Japanese soldiers refused to surrender, each continuing to fight the war for decades in his own way. The most famous was Lieutenant Onoda Hiroo, who hid out in the Philippines mounting guerrilla attacks — at first with a few fellow soldiers, and finally alone — until 1974. Onoda became a celebrity upon retuning to his homeland, and his admirers weren’t only Japanese. In Tokyo to direct an opera in 1997, Werner Herzog requested an introduction to one man only: the soldier who’d fought the war for 30 years.

Now Onoda has become the subject of one of Herzog’s latest projects: not a film, but a novel called The Twilight World. In his native German (brought into English by translator-critic Michael Hofmann), Herzog has written of not just his own meeting with Onoda but narrated Onoda’s own long experience in the Philippines.

“Onoda’s war is of no meaning for the cosmos, for history, for the course of the war,” goes one passage quoted by A. O. Scott in The Atlantic. “Onoda’s war is formed from the union of an imaginary nothing and a dream, but Onoda’s war, sired by nothing, is nevertheless overwhelming, an event extorted from eternity.”

One thinks of the protagonists of Herzog’s films, both imagined and real: the steamship-dragging rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, the downed Navy pilot Dieter Dengler, the deluded conquistador Lope de Aguirre, the ill-fated wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell. In Onoda’s case as well, Scott writes, “Herzog declines to treat him as a joke. He is clearly fascinated by the absurdity of this hero’s situation, and also determined to defend the dignity of a man who had no choice but to persevere in an impossible mission.” Anyone familiar with Herzog’s career, full of harrowing encounters and unpredictable turns but clearly operating by an iron logic all its own, can imagine why he saw in Onoda a kindred spirit.

Eight years after his death at the age of 91, Onoda remains a figure of general fascination, the subject of history videos viewed by millions as well as last year’s Onoda: 10,000 Nights of the Jungle, a feature by French director Arthur Harari. Of course,  “the guy who stays in the field long after the war is over is, to modern eyes, a comical, cautionary figure, an avatar of patriotism carried to ridiculous extremes,” writes Scott. “We rarely pause to look for motives other than blind obedience, or to imagine what those years of phantom combat in the wilderness must have felt like.” Perhaps we twenty-first century Westerners simply lack the imaginative power necessary to do so — all of us, that, is except Werner Herzog. You can pre-order his novel, The Twilight World, now. It hits the shelves next week, on June 14th.

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The Dream Driven Filmmaking of Werner Herzog: Watch the Video Essay, “The Inner Chronicle of What We Are: Understanding Werner Herzog”

Time Travel Back to Tokyo After World War II, and See the City in Remarkably High-Quality 1940s Video

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Machiavelli’s The Prince Explained in an Illustrated Film

Niccolò Machiavelli lived in a time before the internet, before radio and television, before drones and weapons of mass destruction. Thus one naturally questions the relevance of his political theories to the twenty-first century. Yet in discussions about the dynamics of power, no name has endured as long as Machiavelli’s. His reputation as a theorist rests mostly on his 1532 treatise Il Principe, or The Prince, in which he pioneered a way of analyzing power as it was actually wielded, not as people would have liked it to be. How, he asked, does a ruler — a prince — attain his position in a state, and even more importantly, how does he maintain it?

You can hear Machiavelli’s answers to these questions explained, and see them illustrated, in the 43-minute video above. It breaks The Prince down into seven parts summarizing as many of the book’s main points, including “Do not be neutral,” “Destroy, do not would,” and “Be feared.”

These commandments would seem to align with Machiavelli’s popular image as an apologist, even an advocate, for brutal and repressive forms of rule. But his enterprise has less to do with offering advice than with describing how real figures of power, princes and otherwise, had amassed and retained that power.

The video comes from Eudaimonia, a Youtube channel that has also featured similarly animated exegeses of Stoicism and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Its creator makes these ancient sources of knowledge accessible with not just his cartoonish illustrations, but also his inclusion of illuminating examples from more recent history. In the case of The Prince, these come from eras like the Russian Revolution, World War II, and even our own time of instant global communication, attention-hungry media, and a seemingly weak political class. In much of the world, we live in a time much less nasty and brutish than Machiavelli’s. But looking at the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of our own leaders, we have to admit that the principles of The Prince may not have gone out of effect.

To delve deeper into the world of Machiavelli, you can watch a BBC documentary on the Renaissance political theorist below.

Related content:

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How Machiavelli Really Thought We Should Use Power: Two Animated Videos Provide an Introduction

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


Haruki Murakami Jazz Mixes: Hear Playlists of Jazz Pieces Namechecked in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84

Haruki Murakami has long since broken with the traditional model of the novelist, not least in that his books have their own soundtracks. You can’t go out and buy the accompanying album for a Murakami novel as you would for a movie, granted, but today you can even more easily find online playlists of the music mentioned in them. A die-hard music lover, Murakami, has been name-checking not just musicians but specific songs in his work ever since his first novel, 1979’s Hear the Wind Sing. Eighteen years later, he titled a whole book after a Beatles number; the tale of yearning and disaffection in 1960s Tokyo that is Norwegian Wood would become his breakout bestseller around the world.

When Norwegian Wood first came out in Korea, where I live, it did so as The Age of Loss (상실의 시대). That title is still referenced in the video above, an hourlong mix of songs from the novel posted by the Korean Youtube channel Jazz Is Everywhere. (This doesn’t surprise me: here–where Murakami’s many avid fans in Korea refer to him simply as “Haruki”–more of his work has been translated into Korean than ever will be into English.) Selections include the Bill Evans Trio’s “Waltz for Debby,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” Thelonious Monk’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” and Miles Davis’ “So What.” More recently, Jazz Is Everywhere put up a mix of songs from Murakami’s 2011 novel 1Q84, featuring the likes of Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington.

These mixes focus on jazz, one of Murakami’s most beloved genres; as is well known, he even ran his own jazz bar in Tokyo before turning novelist. (Its name, Peter Cat, now adorns a book café here in Seoul.) But the 1Q84 mix ends with Leoš Janáček’s decidedly un-jazzy Sinfonietta, a somewhat jarring orchestral piece that became an unlikely hit in Japan soon after 1Q84‘s publication. This only hints at the variety of Western music of which Murakami has made literary use, much as he has transposed the techniques of the Western novel (a translator from English in his spare time, he has also produced a Japanese version of The Great Gatsby) into his native language. An eclectic, improvisational, and often understated style of storytelling has resulted — which, much like jazz, has proven to know no cultural boundaries.

Related content:

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haruki Murakami’s Novels: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

Haruki Murakami’s Passion for Jazz: Discover the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

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