Inventory no.: 1707

Colonial Indian Silver – Milton’s Paradise Lost


Exceptional & Rare Silver-Gilt & Rosewood Box Cover for Milton’s Paradise Lost & Regained


circa 1880

height: 25.5cm, width: 12.8cm, depth: 18.8cm

This utterly extraordinary relic from colonial India comprises a highly-polished rosewood box in the form of two book volumes, made specifically for storing Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained.

The box has a hinged and lockable door (the original silver-gilt key is still present). The box on one side has an exquisitely rendered scene of a tall and elegant sari-clad Indian woman holding a large dish in a beautiful garden setting that comprises a rose bush, a palm tree and various grasses all in some of the finest silver that we have seen and all gilded (gold plated). An arched late-Victorian Gothic Revival open-work frieze of faceted, grape vines and other flowers is over the scene.

The other side of the box is decorated with a wide border of perfectly-rendered, dense, interlocked leafy tendrils all in faceted, gilded silver.

The ‘spine’ of the box has in Gothic Revival lettering the words ‘Milton’s Poetical Works’, ‘Paradise Lost And Regained’, and ‘Vol. I’ and ‘Vol. II’.

The precise place of manufacture in India is unclear – most probably it is the work of a Calcutta or Bombay artisans.

The item is almost certainly unique and most probably was commissioned as a gift – perhaps from an Indian prince or a wealthy merchant’s son as a gift to his tutor. The item is of the highest craftsmanship – not only the silver but also the joinery used in construction of the box. The door glides open and shut and closes perfectly flush with the rest of the box, for example. There are no losses to the sliver, no chipping to the box and no repairs.

Paradise Lost by the seventeenth century English poet John Milton was originally published in 1667 and was an epic poem about the Biblical Fall of Man. Some regard it as the greatest work in the English language. Paradise Regained, a shorter but nonetheless epic poem, was published in 1671. Its theme is the Temptation of Christ.


UK art market

Inventory no.: 1707