Vindication of Some Passages


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GIBBON, Edward. A Vindication of Some Passages in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Chapters of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By the Author. London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1779. Octavo, 19th-century three-quarter brown calf, marbled boards and endpapers.

Rare first edition of Gibbon’s spirited defense of his landmark history, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, which relate the decay of Rome to the rise of Christianity, elicited in their day a storm of angry protest. To most of his adversaries Gibbon declined to reply; but “it was one of the least worthy of them, a young man of 21 years, barely more than an undergraduate, who stung him to a formal reply” (Norton, 86). Gibbon felt, and justifiably, that young Mr. Davis of Balliol College, Oxford, had attacked both his personal integrity and his historiographical rigor; Davis had accused him, for example, of not having read the authors he quotes from. Gibbon’s reply is lacerating: “I cannot profess myself very desirous of Mr. Davis’s acquaintance; but if he will take the trouble of calling at my house any afternoon when I am not at home, my servant shall shew him my library, which he will find tolerably well furnished with the useful authors… who have directly supplied me with the materials of my History” (91). The Vindication showed that Gibbon could write stealthy pamphlets as well as massive volumes; Horace Walpole likened it to “the feathered arrow of Cupid, that is more formidable than the club of Hercules” (Norton, 86-87). Bound without half title, as often, and without final leaf, X4, advertisement leaf for the forthcoming third edition of the Decline and Fall. Text complete. M3 is a cancel, as usual. Norton 30. Contemporary ink ownership signature to title page, with a few ink notations on title page in a neat hand.

Interior fine. Light age-wear to binding. A near-fine copy of this scarce work.

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