Milton studied at Christ’s College Cambridge for seven years Kiera Quirk for Varsity

Annotations in the margins of a book found in Phoenix, Arizona, have been identified as the handwriting of John Milton.

Milton’s writing was found in a copy of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles, a 16th-century text believed to have been a major inspiration for Milton’s masterpiece Paradise Lost. 

The notes in The Chronicles are one of three known surviving books to include handwritten reading notes by Milton, and one of nine that survived from his personal library.

Dr Aaron Pratt, curator of early books and manuscripts at the University of Texas, recognised the style of the “e” in written comments, which resembles other handwriting from the Christ’s alumnus.

Photos of the notes were then sent to Professor Jason Scott-Warren of Gonville & Caius College, who was able to use two surviving examples of Milton’s handwriting to confirm the authorship of the annotations.

Scott-Warren also noticed that Milton’s notes included him crossing out a lewd anecdote. It referenced Arlete, mother of William the Conqueror, who refused to let the contemporary monarch, Robert I of Normandy, lift up her dress after he observed her dancing. Milton refers to this as an “unbecom[ing] tale” in his annotations.


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Scott-Warren claimed that, although Milton was well-known for being “an enemy of press censorship”, the crossing out demonstrates “he was not immune to prudishness”.

Milton studied at Christ’s College Cambridge for seven years between 1625 and 1632, during which he dubbed with the nickname ‘Lady of Christ’s’ due to his long white hair. He went on to become a poet and civil servant, taking a strong polemical approach throughout his writings. His best-known work is his Epic poem Paradise Lost, published in 1667.