“War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice" First editions, first state of each volume of Gibbon's masterpiece The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Item Number: 89147
London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1781-1788.
Rare first editions, first state of each volume of the historian’s masterpiece. Quarto, six volumes, bound in full contemporary calf, rebacked, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, gilt ruled, raised gilt bands, marbled endpapers. With the frontispiece portrait of Gibbon dated 1780 by Joseph Hall after the original portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and 12-page Table of Contents only present in the first state of Volume I. Engraved folding maps of the Eastern Roman Empire and Constantinople in Volume II; with the map of Constantinople in its original folded issue, as opposed to the more common appearance showing the plate trimmed to the margin and inserted. Engraved folding map of the Western Roman Empire in Vol III. Errata leaves for Volumes I-III in each respective volume; errata for Volumes IV-VI at rear of Volume VI. A stunning set; exceptionally rare and desirable.
"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 equalled 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).