London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand, 1776 - 1788. First edition. Mixed state, combining aspects of Norton's variants a and b in Volume I. 6 volumes, quarto (270 x 220 mm). Contemporary calf rebacked to style, red morocco spine labels, raised bands, compartments elaborately stamped in gilt. Volume I with marginal stains affecting the running title to pages 87-88 and stains to the lower corners of 189-193 affecting no text; foxing to pages 42-61 and 392-402 of Volume II; Volume III with dampstains to headers of Contents not affecting text, foxing to pages 16-25, and 1.5 inch tear to inner margin of folding map. Collating complete, with engraved portrait frontispiece by Hall after Joshua Reynolds (dated 1 February 1780) issued with the first edition of Volume II but bound in Volume I as usual; two engraved folding maps to Volume II and folding map to Volume III. All half titles and errata leaves present. Volume I in mixed state, uncorrected up to page 183, with X4 signed and cancelled but a4 and b2 not cancels but signed; no cancels to Volume II; Volume III with page 177 correctly numbered and the misspelling to "Honorious" on page 179; Volume IV with no cancels.
"This masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style has remained one of the ageless historical works which...maintain their hold on the layman and continue to stimulate the scholar...Gibbon brought a width of vision and a critical mastery of the available sources which have not been equalled to this day" (PMM). Scholars continue to discuss how Gibbon participates in eighteenth century trends of genre blurring and bending, using paradigms of the romance novel alongside emerging modern scholarship to create a fascinating and readable history. Others note how "Gibbon's work occupies a peculiar position in the political and economic climate of the late eighteenth century because of its subject matter. The majority of the political structures considered in the Decline and Fall are absolutist monarchies dominated by the figure of the sacred king" -- a major contrast to the rise of democracies and the calls for economic mobility being made across Europe and the U.S. (Cosgrove). An epic history in an incredibly addictive form, the present is a beautiful, clean, and complete example.
PMM 222. Near Fine (Item #3391)