The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand, 1776 - 1788.
London: W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand, 1776 - 1788. First editions. First state of volume 1 (with all errata uncorrected and cancels as called for). 6 volumes, quarto (273 x 210 mm). Contemporary polished calf, with skillful repairs to the spines, red and green morocco spine labels, raised bands, compartments elaborately decorated and ruled in gilt, boards framed in 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 maps to vol. 2; 1 engraved map in vol. 3. Complete but for the half-title to vol. 1.
With the cancel leaves and uncorrected errata as called for by Norton: vol. 1 with cancels X4 and a4 (so signed), errata leaf uncorrected, bound at the end; 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.
Generally a clean set internally. Some minor foxing throughout and several leaves toned in vols. 2 and 3. Ill-advised ferns pressed at p. 592-3 and a corner torn at p 469 (no text affected) of vol. 2. Vols. 4 and 5 with a previous owner's penciled name scrawled on an early blank. Vol. 5 with marginal dampstains to the preliminary leaves (no text affected). Overall a handsome set.
"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.
Grolier English 58; Norton 20, 23, 29; Printing and the Mind of Man 222; Rothschild 942. (Item #5602)