"THE GREATEST HISTORICAL WORK EVER WRITTEN": GIBBON'S LANDMARK DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN HANDSOME CONTEMPORARY CALF-GILT
GIBBON, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1781-1788. Six volumes. Quarto, contemporary full tan calf gilt rebacked in matching morocco, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $12,000.
Mixed edition set (Volume I is fourth edition, all others are first editions) of one of the greatest classics of Western thought, with three engraved maps by Kitchin, two of them folding. In handsome contemporary calf boards.
"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 1776 first edition of Volume I were sold within two weeks of publication in January 1776. Volume I here is the fourth edition, with notes altered per Gibbon's decision "to take Hume's advice to print the notes at the bottom of the pages" in the third and subsequent volumes. The third edition was also extensively revised by Gibbon: "improving the turn of the sentence or securing greater accuracy of expression" (Norton, 43). This fourth edition of Volume I includes a table of contents "much longer and more detailed than the table of contents in the first three editions" (Norton, 49). 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 portraits of Gibbon in Volumed I and IV; bound without half titles. Norton 22, 28, 29. Rothschild 942, 945. Grolier 100. Early armorial bookplates. Occasional marginal pencil marks.
Plates and text generally clean and fine, contemporary boards in excellent condition. A beautiful copy.