"THE GREATEST HISTORICAL WORK EVER WRITTEN": GIBBON'S LANDMARK DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN BEAUTIFUL CONTEMPORARY TREE CALF-GILT
GIBBON, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1777-1788. Six volumes. Quarto, contemporary full tree calf rebacked with elaborately gilt-decorated spines and red and green morocco spine labels laid down, marbled endpaper. $15,000.
Mixed edition set (Volume I is third edition, Volumes II and III are 1789 "New" editions, and Volumes IV-VI are first editions) of one of the greatest classics of Western thought, with three engraved maps by Kitchin, two of them folding. Beautifully bound in rich contemporary calf-gilt.
"This masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style has remained one of the ageless historical works… Gibbon brought a width of vision and a critical mastery of the available sources which have not been equaled to this day; and the result was clothed in inimitable prose" (PMM 222). "For 22 years Gibbon was a prodigy of steady and arduous application. His investigations extended over almost the whole range of intellectual activity for nearly 1500 years. And so thorough were his methods that the laborious investigations of German scholarship, the keen criticisms of theological zeal, and the steady researches of (two) centuries have brought to light very few important errors in the results of his labors. But it is not merely the learning of his work, learned as it is, that gives it character as a history. It is also that ingenious skill by which the vast erudition, the boundless range, the infinite variety, and the gorgeous magnificence of the details are all wrought together in a symmetrical whole… It is still entitled to be esteemed as the greatest historical work ever written" (Adams, Manual of Historical Literature, 146-7). All 1000 copies of the first edition of Volume I were sold within two weeks of publication in January 1776. Volume I here is the third edition, published one year after the first in a printing of 1000 copies, with notes altered per Gibbon's decision "to take Hume's advice to print the notes at the bottom of the pages" in this and subsequent volumes. The third edition was extensively revised by Gibbon: "improving the turn of the sentence or securing greater accuracy of expression" (Norton, 43). Volumes II and III are the 1789 "New" or fourth overall editions, published the year following the publication of the first editions of Volumes IV-VI. With maps of the "Western Part of the Roman Empire," "Eastern Part of the Roman Empire," and "Parts of Europe and Asia Adjacent to Constantinople" in Volume II. Frontispiece engraved portrait of Gibbon in Volume I; bound without half-titles. Norton 22, 28, 29. Rothschild 942, 945. Grolier 100. Armorial bookplates.
Usual occasional scattered light foxing to interiors; contemporary tree calf exceptional. About-fine condition.