Milton’s Defensio, translated by Margetts

Joad Raymond

Transcript of Thomas Margetts’ contemporary translation of Milton’s First Defence


This is the earliest known translation of Milton’s Defensio, made by Thomas Margetts, who worked alongside Milton in the Commonwealth and Protectorate governments of the 1650s. It is kept by the Alexander Turnbull Library in the National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Matauranga O Aotearoa, shelfmark MS-1649.


This plain transcription of the manuscript I publish here for the benefit of the scholarly community. I hope it may also prove useful for teaching Milton (especially as Defensio, the book that made Milton famous, isn’t included in the recent editions of selected prose). The text here is unannotated, and this uncorrected transcription may contain a few errors. I am presently preparing a scholarly edition of the manuscript to compose part of my edition of Defensio for the Oxford Complete Works of John Milton, volume 7. The present edition can be cited thus:

Joad Raymond, ‘Transcript of Thomas Margetts’ translation of Milton’s First Defence’, <>


Thanks to Sam Kaislaniemi for help with the hand, and to Kirsty Rolfe for help with the transcription. Thanks to the staff at the Turnbull Library in New Zealand, especially Ruth Lightbourne. And thanks to the Bibliographical Society of America who funded the research that made this discovery possible.


Margetts’ hand is highly legible, but also highly irregular, mixing secretary and late italic hands. The separation between the two isn’t always clear, partly because Margetts uses multiple forms within each. However, I use italics to indicate Margetts’ italic hand, which he generally employs to indicate quotation. Margetts inserted cross references, mainly to Salmasius’ Defensio Regia, in the left margin of his page. Here they appear (at the nearest point in the main body of the text) thus: [margin: p:3.] A ‘+’ in the margin indicates a place holder – Margetts intended to return and supply a reference. A ‘+’, however, indicates an annotation to a word marked with a ‘+’ in the main text. I’ve inserted a double tab where there is an indentation following a marginal reference – to clarify the paragraph breaks. Longer contractions have been expanded; insertions etc. are indicated with standard conventions. Otherwise I’ve reproduced Margetts’ idiosyncratic spacing: significant white space stands between some sentences.


The manuscript is an 8vo bound in 8s. As the pattern of corrections indicate, it is a tidy copy of another manuscript, probably an earlier draft, though not a presentation copy. It is paginated rather than foliated. It is based on the London quarto edition. As the page numbers in the cross references show, Margetts used an Elzevir edition of Defensio Regia (different from that used by Milton)


A brief account of the manuscript and its context appears in the TLS (10 Feb 2016). A longer article tracing the history of the manuscript, its author and his relationship with Milton, and examining the literary properties of the text is forthcoming in a scholarly journal; more will appear in my forthcoming Milton edition, volume 7 of The Complete Works of John Milton, gen. eds. Thomas N. Corns and Gordon Campbell. A  biography of Margetts is forthcoming in the Dictionary of National Biography.


I will update this edition periodically. Any suggestions or queries can be sent to: j.raymond[at]

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Title and Preface

First chapter

Second chapter

Third chapter

Fourth chapter

Fifth chapter

Sixth chapter

Seventh chapter

Eighth chapter

Ninth chapter

Tenth chapter

Eleventh chapter

Twelfth chapter