A Librarian's Stroll Through Milton's Afterlife

Michael Joseph
2012 The Journal of the Rutgers University Library  
A Librarian's Stroll through Milton's Afterlife" is a brief gallery tour of our favorite books in the exhibition, The Afterlife of John Milton. They are not necessarily curatorial favorites, assuming curators should want books that best illustrate the arguments underlying their show, nor a reader's favorite-books with the most powerful or influential or recognizable texts. Although all of them do support the theme of the show and possess famous and astonishing texts, our favorites are first and
more » ... rites are first and foremost distinctive, one-of-a-kind objects, with their own unique histories and compelling stories. A few of these are modest in scope-amusing anecdotes, or bibliographic jokes-but one or two are truly remarkable. As many of the books in the show were acquired by the Libraries many years ago-at a time when, in order to contribute to a unified national database, university cataloging consisted largely of deriving records of the ideal copy from the Library of Congressthe distinctive qualities of these books were unrecorded and unknown to us. They represent the sort of undiscovered treasures that used to tempt English majors into library schools, before the rise of digitization shifted the grounding of library service away from bibliography. The exhibition, The Afterlife of John Milton, was a companion to Thomas Fulton's John Milton and the Cultures of Print. It was conceived collaboratively by Dr. Fulton, a Milton specialist, Dr. Kevin Mulcahy, humanities bibliographer, and me, rare books librarian, with the notion of pointing out that John Milton continued to shape and influence English and American literature well after his death in 1674, and to suggest the scope of his influence in a broad survey of great books stretching over two and a half centuries. The larger body of the show resembled the syllabus of a mid-twentieth century intro to English lit, with Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1714), 1 and his translation of Homer's Iliad, 2
doi:10.14713/jrul.v65i0.1787 fatcat:3zmlw4rehncjtigeslc5o2waju