The Milton Variorum Project is a major initiative, involving over a dozen leading Miltonists, intended to complete A Variorum Commentary on the Poems of John Milton. The Milton Variorum was originally published in the early 1970's under the general editorship of Merritt Y. Hughes. The work was intended to consist of six volumes, but only four of the six were completed. Volume I, edited by Douglas Bush, was on the Latin and Greek poems. This was published in 1970. Volume II, edited by Douglas Bush and A. S. P. Woodhouse, was on the Minor English Poems.
This appeared in three separate sub-volumes in 1972. Volume IV, edited by Walter MacKellar, was on Paradise Regained and was published in 1975. Volume VI, edited by Edward Weismiller, was on the prosody of the English poems. Volume III, on Paradise Lost, was to have been edited by Merritt Hughes, but he died before completing the task. Volume V, on Samson Agonistes, was to have been edited by William Riley Parker and John M. Steadman, but it too has never been completed. About seven years ago, Albert C. Labriola and Paul Klemp decided to resurrect the project by assembling a team of scholars to fill the significant gaps of Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes. Each of the two remaining volumes (to be published by Duquesne University Press) will consist of two parts. Firstly, there will be line-by-line annotations of both poems, and secondly, there will be a lengthy introduction to each poem, surveying the history of its critical reception. Each of the twelve books of Paradise Lost has been assigned to a separate Miltonist who is responsible for compiling the notes to that book. Professor John Leonard has been given the task of writing the introduction to Paradise Lost, surveying and summarizing the most influential criticism written between 1667 and 1970 (the terminus ad quem of the original Milton Variorum Commentary). Prof. Leonard's part of the project will be published separately as a stand-alone volume of about 700 pages. As of September 2005, it is about two thirds complete. Once the volumes on Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes are finished, the entire Variorum Commentary (all six volumes) will be revised to include criticism published as late as 2000.