Synopsis and Illustrations in Folio Edition
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Commentary by Robert J. Wickenheiser, Ph. D.
Without a doubt, Terrance Lindall is the foremost illustrator of Paradise Lost in our age, comparable to other great illustrators through the ages, and someone who has achieved a place of high stature for all time.
Throughout almost four centuries of illustrating Milton’s Paradise Lost, no one has devoted his or her life, artistic talents and skills and the keenness of the illustrator’s eye more fully and few as completely as Terrance Lindall has done in bringing to life Milton’s great epic. He has also devoted his brilliant mind to studying Milton, his philosophy, and his theology in order to know as fully as possible the great poet to whom he has devoted his adult life and to whose great epic he has devoted the keenness of his artistic eye in order to bring that great epic alive in new ways in a new age and for newer ages still to come.
From virtually the outset Milton has been appreciated as the poet of poets. It was John Dryden who said it first and best about Milton shortly after Milton died in 1674:
Three Poets in three distant Ages born ––
Greece, Italy and England did adorn.
The First in loftiness of thought Surpass'd;
The Next in Majesty: in both the Last.
The force of Nature could no further goe;
To make a Third she joyn'd the Former two.
Milton's use of unrhymed iambic pentameter verse in a manner never used before raises the lofty goals of his epic to a level never before achieved in the English language. Moreover, the poet who said at age 10 that he intended to write an epic which will do for England what Homer had done for Greece and Virgil for Rome, accomplished masterfully the goal he set himself and more than has ever been achieved before or since.
This is by no means to say that there are no great poets who have achieved high goals after Milton, and in doing so have joined Milton and even rivaled him. But Milton is the giant who stands at the door to English poetry urging all who would enter to master their art, to write with the highest respect for language and a passionate recognition of what language is capable of achieving.
In Milton's Paradise Lost we see, too, that in great poetry there is always great passion, clarity of voice in support of the purpose at hand, and at its best, with the prophetic and the visionary joined to compel the reader to rise to new heights in what is read and seen through the poet-prophet.
Milton’s Paradise Lost challenges everyone to achieve goals beyond any they might have dreamed possible before, and to take from his own great epic, goals which help define all that is worthy of sustaining while providing English poetry with what it did not yet have. To declare at age 10 that he would become the greatest English poet is one thing, and a quite spectacular thing at that, but to go on then and fulfill this goal shows not only the great vision Milton had as a poet, but also his tremendous confidence in becoming that great poet.
Milton sings with the voice of the visionary poet and so he becomes the poet for those who see in him clarity of voice and of vision; poets like William Blake who, in the early 19th century thought he was Milton (stretching the point a bit as Blake was wont to do) and who therefore relied very much on Milton and even wrote a poem entitled “Milton” designed and hand-colored as with other of Blake’s great works. While Blake openly admired Milton, William Wordsworth, a few decades later, was calling out for Milton in an age that had need of him, proclaiming: “Milton! Thou should’st be living at this hour.”
As the visionary poet Milton was, he had acute interest in such monumental issues as the relationship between God and man, free will and its vital importance to all of mankind along with the responsibility that goes with it, the relationship between man and woman, divorce and the need for acceptance of it, definition of “monarchy” along with important issues related thereto, and a great deal more. Milton defined many issues at a time when England was engaged in a Civil War precisely because of those very significant issues, issues which Milton helped not only to define but also to defend.
His life spared after the Civil War and his reputation as a poet and writer of important treaties reasserted, Milton retired to the country, to Chalfont St. Chiles, where he dedicated himself to completing Paradise Lost, and ultimately, Paradise Regain'd and Samson Agonistes. What a profound loss it would have been had Milton not been allowed to write his greatest poetical works!
Yet how did the poet write his monumental works, especially given the loss of his eyesight while writing significant treatises both before and during the Civil War? Here we have the blind poet dictating to an amanuensis (his daughters, as many preferred to believe for a long time, but in reality his nephew), whole passages defining important relationships and memorable scenes which are themselves of epic proportion: the creation of man in Adam and of woman in Eve; Eve seeing herself in the pond for the first time and likewise our seeing Eve at the same time she sees herself; Adam seeing Eve for the first time; the moving depiction of the “bower of bliss” and then of the creation; the war in heaven; the depiction of Satan and hell, with Satan rallying his troops in passages that take poetry to new heights; the temptation of Eve and then Adam, in equally powerful scenes, and the departure of Adam and Eve from Eden.
Surely Milton deserves not only our gratitude for the prose treatises he wrote, but also for the poetry, much of it written under the most dire of circumstances (some thought he might be put to death for his part in the Civil War and his service to Cromwell, and also more specifically because of his treatise in defense of “beheading a King”).
Here is a poet to be reckoned with: for standing up in defense of eternal values, something Milton not only did himself, but something he expected his readers to do as well; and then to appreciate his poems, his epic verse and organ voice, his epic vision, and his bringing to life, despite (or perhaps because of) his blindness, something so unique that Dryden and others long after him have recognized in Milton the genius that “Surpass’d” Homer and Virgil before him.
As Milton left his supreme poetic gifts for mankind to appreciate in reading his great works during the centuries following him, so, too, he used his blindness to bring to life visions befitting the dynamic scope and epic dimensions of his great epic; visions undertaken in the first, and still one of the greatest illustrated editions of Paradise Lost published not long after Milton died, in a folio format in 1688. Medina's illustrations, primarily, are those which appear in the 1688 folio edition of Paradise Lost, but aside from the significance of what his stature brought to this publishing venture, the 1688 folio remains a highly sought after book today because it is England's first grand publication and therefore holds its own place for the first time with books printed on the Continent where books had long been praised for their publishing distinction and artistic design and success.
Through the centuries John Milton’s Paradise Lost has continued to inspire artists, which tells us much about Milton and about his great epic, a poem which readily lends itself to the eye of the artist, and in this, affords all of us a visual perspective, a visual capturing of the poet’s vision, which words alone can seldom achieve. Commentary and criticism certainly have their place, but seldom does the written word adequately capture the poet’s vision or replace the illustration or illustrations of the artist’s view of a poem and his capturing that view on a canvas. The aspirations of each, however, critic and artist/illustrator, need not be pitted against one another; indeed should not. Rather, they should be welcomed for the manner in which each complements a view or views of a poem thereby bringing together two significant disciplines: that of the writer/poet together with that of the artist/illustrator.
Poets who aspire to lofty goals lend themselves most readily to being illustrated, providing us with the opportunity of looking at how a poem or group of poems is seen by the eye of an artist. Instead of learning about the themes and poetry of a given age or period as seen only through the eyes of writers and critics, we are privileged to have the views of the artist to help us see and appreciate the poetic vision of the poet, sometimes in great variation from one period to the next or as viewed by one generation to the next.
Obviously, given the monumental issues in Paradise Lost as well as Milton's portrayal of them, it should be no surprise to say that Paradise Lost may well be the most illustrated of poems and epics. I intend no controversy by saying this, but wish simply to call attention to how epic scenes have been brought to life for viewers by master artists capable of depicting grand visions within grand poems; by artists capable of capturing with visionary view what words alone can never do. The painter/illustrator, in capturing moments which might otherwise have been given less recognition than they deserve, provides a vital service in bringing to life scenes or moments, images or views depicted in poetic form by the poet, thereby enabling the viewer to appreciate all the more what the poet has achieved and how he has achieved it.
Lindall has himself said about Milton’s epic: “With Paradise Lost, the written word in its greatest form, Milton was able to evoke. . .immense space and project spectacular landscapes of both heaven and hell, and create also the monumentally tragic character of Satan, courageous yet debased, blinded by jealousy and ambition, heroic nonetheless. The blind poet brings powerful visionary life to one of the world’s greatest stories, id est, the Western legend of man’s creation and fall, a story encompassing philosophical concepts of free will, good and evil, justice and mercy, all presented with the greatest artistry to which the written word can aspire.”
Lindall also believes “that insight into Milton and the aesthetic and intellectual pleasures of Paradise Lost can elevate every individual’s experience in education, thought, and human endeavor. . .through the inspiration of the written word.”
It is this cherished belief, which has compelled Lindall to want to bring Paradise Lost alive to others, to urge all to see in Milton, as he does, the power of the word and image, and to want to illustrate Milton’s epic for others to see in relation to the eternal truths and values captured by Milton and conveyed in his great epic poem.
Lindall has synopsized the story of Paradise Lost with genuine care in order to bring Milton’s great epic alive to young and old. His synopsis is poetic in its own beauty, with each word carefully chosen to be true to Milton while maintaining integrity with his great epic and the rendering of it into a readily understandable format. Lindall’s synopsis maintains the spirit of Milton’s epic while revealing the genius of the poet in telling “Of Man’s first disobedience and the fruit / Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste / Brought death into the world and all our woe, / With loss of Eden, till one grater Man / Restore us and regain the blissful seat, / Sing heav/nly Muse. . .”
Terrance Lindall has spent decades perfecting his painting skill and illustrating technique in order to capture all that is best and visionary about Milton, providing illustrations of Milton’s great epic, early on, e.g., along with his synopsis in a fold-out brochure in order to bring Milton’s epic alive to students in schools. Lindall’s first edition of his synopsized version of Paradise Lost along with his illustrations (1983) were designed to encourage young readers to look into the brilliance and eloquence of Milton’s visionary poetic landscape and his great organ voice.
More recently he has gone beyond illustrating Paradise Lost by capturing the essence of Milton’s epic and its meaning down through the centuries and beyond in a “Gold Illuminated Paradise Lost Scroll” (size with border 17” x 50”), with nine panels to be read from right to left, as with Hebrew; the Scroll is Lindall’s “tribute to his love [of] and sincere gratitude for Milton’s great contribution to humanity.” He finished the “Gold Illuminated Paradise Lost Scroll” in 2010.
He has also brought Milton’s epic alive in a very large “Altar Piece,” called “The Paradise Lost Altar Piece” (oil on wood), consisting of two large panels, each 24” x 40”. When opened, the panels might be seen as pages from an illuminated manuscript of the Renaissance. One panel shows the gates to the “Garden of Eden.” The second panel shows the “Gates to Hell.” In both panels, pages from the epic poem Paradise Lost lie revealed in the foreground at the center of the illustration. “The Paradise Lost Altar Piece” was completed in 2009.
Lindall’s passion for Milton and his desire to bring the poet and his great epic alive to modern readers reveal themselves over nearly four decades. During this same period, from the late 1970s to 2012, Lindall’s “love of Paradise Lost” and his “sincere gratitude for Milton’s great contribution to humanity” grew enormously.
To get a sense of this as well as of Lindall’s broader artistic background and its influence on his illustrations of Paradise Lost, there is his large cover illustration of the comic book Creepy (now considered a classic – both the comic book and Lindall’s “creepy” cover illustration of “Visions Of Hell (6/79).” Likewise his cover to Creepy (#116, May 1980), entitled “The End of Man” (again, the comic book and Lindall’s cover illustration now considered classic).
About this same time some of Lindall’s earliest illustrations for Paradise Lost in the late 1970s appeared in comic book form, Heavy Metal Magazine (1980). Appearance in Heavy Metal enabled Lindall’s illustrations to reach a very large audience. That issue in 1980 of Heavy Metal Magazine became an acquisition proudly reported by the Bodleian Library in 2010 (with one of Lindall’s paintings, Visianry Foal, appearing at the top of the acquisitions page), alongside such other acquisition listings at the same time as Philip Neve’s A Narrative of the Disinterment of Milton’s Coffin. . .Wednesday, 4th of August, 1790 (1790) and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (1995-2000), a rewriting of PL by “a modern master,” among others. The oil painting by Lindall from the Nii Foundation collection was used by the Oxford University major exhibit "Citizen Milton" at the Bodleian Library in its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Milton’s birth in 2008, thereby recognizing Lindall's contribution to the continuing Miltonian artistic legacy.
Joseph Wittreich, esteemed Milton scholar and friend of both Lindall and me, has kindly given a copy of the 1980 issue of Heavy Metal Magazine to the Huntington Library. My own collection has several copies along with the other acquisitions listed above by the Bodleian Library in 2010.
Shortly after the appearance of a portion of Terrance Lindall’s illustrations of Paradise Lost in Heavy Metal Magazine (1980), there appeared in 1983 his synopsis of Paradise Lost along with his illustrations of Milton’s epic, privately published together in a small book (5 ½” x 8 ¼”) in a limited number of copies, entitled: John Milton’s Paradise Lost synopsized and with illustrations by Terrance Lindall. The color print illustrations, inspiration now taking real form and mature character, were tipped in across from the printed synopsis of the illustrated lines of Milton being illustrated.
The whole was a wonderful success and Lindall’s reputation as an artist and as someone committed to illustrating Milton’s great epic were growing in stature, while his illustrations were gaining recognition for the artistic achievement they represented. The surrealist provocateur was moving in a direction that suited his own goals as an artist and a scholar, an illustrator of Paradise Lost and someone even more strongly committed to continuing his illustrating of the poet’s great epic. The World Wide Web has long since given access to Lindall’s paintings by millions, making Lindall’s illustrations among the best known of Paradise Lost.
Lindall’s attention to Milton’s epic and to details in the epic, ever from the eye of the dedicated and committed artist/illustrator, grew beyond his early attention to detail. From a small-size private publication with tipped-in cards measuring 3 ½” x 4 ¼” or sometimes 4 ½”, Lindall moved to a quarto-sized publication in 2009, again done in a very limited number of copies (this time 20) and with each illustration measuring 5 ¾” x 7 5/8” and signed and dated by the artist.
The quarto edition has been followed by his massive and richly triumphant elephant folio illustrating Paradise Lost (No. 1 completed in 2011 and No. 2 in 2012), the remarkable edition we celebrate here. All concepts that were growing in meaning and stature during the nearly forty years before now were drawing themselves into place for this ultimate expression of Lindall's interpretation of Paradise Lost in this one final work, his Elephant Folio. Like his other works before him, this large edition is also being done in a very limited number of copies (10), all by hand, a vast expansion in size and scope over his quarto edition, with 64 pages, each page measuring 13” x 19”, illustrations mostly measuring 9” x 12”, title page measuring 11” x 11”. The binding of each folio is intended to be leather bound by the renowned binder Herb Weitz, hand tooled & gilt-decorated, unique, and each personally dedicated to the owner. The covers will be identified by different motifs, such as the "The Archangel Michael Folio" or "The Lucifer Folio," etc. Each copy will have one original conceptual drawing at the front.
I use “being done” in describing both instances, the quarto and the folio editions, because both editions have been (and will continue to be) “done” by hand, with loving care, and with each illustration printed on the highest quality paper stock available anywhere and signed and dated by the artist. Both the quarto and the folio editions have been, and will be, done as “originals, as signed prints,” and in the case of the Elephant Folio, as prints with original paintings surrounding them.
In itself, the quarto edition is superb, truly one of a kind, and distinctive now and for years to come. “The Paradise Lost Elephant Folio,” however, is amazing and goes far beyond the quarto edition in untold ways; it is the culmination of Terrance Lindall’s life’s devotion to Milton, to Paradise Lost, and to all that Milton represents and his great epic means. Because of Lindall’s supreme dedication and artistic achievements, Milton will live in yet another new age, brought to life in refreshingly new ways, made “relevant” in remarkably profound ways. Because of Terrance Lindall, great new numbers of readers will be attracted to Milton and his profound epic than would otherwise, most assuredly, have been the case.
“The Paradise Lost Elephant Folio," in particular, is a hand-embellished and gold illuminated 13 x 19 inch book containing 14 full-page color 1000 dpi prints with 23.75 carat gold leaf edging on Crane archival paper. Each illustration is signed by Terrance Lindall, some pages with hand-painted illustrated or decorated borders and large, carefully embellished head- or tail-piece illustrations, others with historiated initials with 23.75 carat gold leaf embellishments. All add to the depth and meaning of a given illustration of Lindall’s synopsized Paradise Lost (1983) appearing across from an illustration. For the Elephant Folio, Terrance Lindall is also providing a final painting, The Celestial Orbit, as a frontispiece. It is Lindall's "ultimate statement" as an artist's interpretation of Milton's great epic. This painting will only be produced as a print for the Elephant Folio and will not be reproduced for collectors as a signed print in any other format.
And while Lindall may now think that he has finished his work with Milton, he hasn’t, because Milton lives within Lindall in a special way, as surely as Lindall remains dedicated to bringing Milton alive to new generations in fresh and vibrant new ways, doing the same for countless generations in centuries to come.In his folio edition and the illustrations in it, Terrance Lindall shows the influence by certain great master illustrators of Paradise Lost through the centuries before him, especially with the inclusion of richly illustrated margins for each color illustration, the margins colored in 23.75 carat gilt and consisting of brightly colored details drawn from the epic in order to advance the meaning of the given illustration. Moreover, again in the tradition of certain great master illustrators of Milton‘s Paradise Lost through the centuries, historiated initials, in imitation of the initial letter in an illuminated manuscript, each in rich gilt and bright colors, are used as the first initial of a section and decorated with designs representing scenes from the text, in order to heighten the intensity of the cumulatively related details in each component part: illustration, border, and historiated initial.
The illustrated borders in the elephant folio are complete paintings in themselves. Although the border art focuses principally on elements of design, they also sometimes tell stories or make commentary about what is illustrated in the featured central painting. The borders likewise pay tribute to both humanity’s great achievements, such as music, dance and architecture, as well as tribute to those individuals and institutions and friends who have had important influences on Lindall’s ideas, or who have shown substantial support or affinity. For example, the Filipino surrealist artist Bienvenido “Bones” Banez, Jr., discovered Lindall’s repertoire during the world renowned “Brave Destiny” exhibit in 2003, an exhibit to which Bienvenido had been invited to display one of his works. Thereafter, a friendship and mutual admiration between the two great artists grew, to the benefit of each.
Bienvenido communicated to Lindall the idea of how “Satan brings color to the world.” Lindall thought the idea to be an insightful and original "affinity," and so in the elephant folio plate, “Pandemonium,” which is a tribute to art, architecture, construction, sculpture, painting, and the like, he especially honors the Filipino surrealist artist by placing Bienvenido’s name on the artist's palette at the very top of the border, the palette in flaming colors.Like the great illustrators of Milton‘s Paradise Lost before him, Lindall uses many and various techniques and styles to bring Milton’s great epic alive. As with Medina, e.g., in the first illustrated edition of Paradise Lost in 1688, Lindall has mastered how to use the synopsized scenic effect to focus our attention on an important moment in the epic while capturing all around it other significant moments or scenes in the epic related to that important central one.
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