London: 1776 - 1788. First edition. 6 volumes, quarto (273 x 218 mm). Contemporary polished calf, skilfully rebacked to style, red and green morocco spine labels, raised bands, compartments elaborately decorated and ruled in gilt, boards framed in double fillet gilt. Engraved portrait frontispiece by Hall after Joshua Reynolds (dated 1 February 1780) issued with the first edition of vol. 2 but bound in vol. 1 as usual; 2 engraved folding maps to vol. 2.
With the half-titles. Armorial bookplates of Campbell of Shawfield to front pastedowns of first three vols. (likely Walter Campbell of Shawfield [1741-1816], Scottish landowner and Rector of Glasgow University); ownership stamp of "A D McGregor" spotted throughout vols. 2-6; ink annotation "No. 5" to each title page; some careful pencil marks correcting errata. Boards a little marked and scuffed (more so for vols. 4-6), corners discreetly repaired, endpapers browned from turn-ins, inner hinges strengthened, some offset from portrait to title page of vol. 1 and rear free endpaper verso of vol. 1 pencil-scored, a few minor tears and chips. Overall the contents generally clean, with some foxing and the occasional mark, dampstain to lower edge of vol. 2. A handsomely bound set.
First editions (volume 1 in the first state) of Gibbon's magisterial history, with the cancel leaves and uncorrected errata as called for by Norton. The first variant state of volume 1 numbered 500 copies, printed before Strahan's optimistic and ultimately prophetic decision to double the printing order to 1,000; the first edition sold out within a fortnight. "This masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style has remained one of the ageless historical works which maintain their hold upon the layman and continue to stimulate the scholar although they have been superseded in many, if nor most, details by subsequent advances of research and changes in the climate of opinion Gibbon brought a width of vision and a critical mastery of the available sources which have not been equalled to this day; and the result was clothed in an inimitable prose" (PMM).
Vol. 1 with cancels X4 and a4 (so signed), errata leaf uncorrected, bound after the contents; vol. 2 with cancels G1 and Ll1, errata leaf; vol. 3 with p. 177 correctly numbered, p. 179 line 18 with uncorrected spelling of "Honorious", errata leaf; vol. 4 with cancels H3 and L2; vol. 6 with errata for vols. 4-6 on 4Uv (Item #3175)