The Historians Masterpiece; The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Finely Bound Set
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Item Number: 3882
London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1781-1788.
Quarto, 6 volumes. Mixed early editions. Volume I is a fourth edition, volumes II and III are second editions, volumes IV, V, and VI are first editions. Three quarters leather; elaborate gilt tooling to the spine, two burgundy gilt morocco lettering labels. In near fine condition. The frontispiece portrait of Gibbon is after Sir Joshua Reynolds, the three engraved folding maps are of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire, and a folding map of Constantinople (this map is in its original folded issue, instead of the more common method of having the plate trimmed to the margin and inserted; it is more rare in this folded state). Although volumes II and III are second editions, they are, in actuality, reissues of the first editions with canceled titles, and have three new maps not present in the firsts. A beautiful set.
"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).