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Book featuring handwritten notes of poet John Milton discovered at Phoenix library

It’s not every day your local library learns it has a book once owned by a renowned English poet from the 17th century. In March, a group of scholars meeting in the Rare Book Room at the Burton Barr Central Library made such a discovery.

One of the members of the Arizona Book History Group discovered that a 1587 copy of “Holinshed’s Chronicles” contained the handwriting of "Paradise Lost" author John Milton.

The Burton Barr Central Library received the book as a part of the Alfred Knight Collection donated in 1958. Careful analysis of the handwriting revealed that the annotations came from Milton.

Arizona State University assistant professor of English Brandi Adams co-founded the history group.

“To me personally, it was validation for wanting to spend my time at Burton Barr with this collection. It's a collection that the librarians have been caring for and caring about and talking about," she said.

Adams also recognized the “stewardship and the labor” provided by librarians and the public to support libraries. 

“Well, this is a really exciting time for the library and really for researchers and scholars," said Alex Mada, special collections manager at the library. "There's so much potential within the Alfred Knight Collection. There's so much left to be discovered and researched," she said.

It’s the most recent occasion of a public library finding a book with Milton’s marks.

Ignacio Ventura is a reporter for KJZZ. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in news media and society.