The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Complete in 6 volumes. Gibbon, Edward. London: Printed for W. Strahan, 1776-1788. 1st edition (volumes 2-6); 2nd edition (volume 1). Contemporary cloth, with gilt-titled leather labels. Small folio. 3 fold-out maps and an engraved frontispiece portrait. Binding set.


Extremely rare first edition set (the first volume is marked as a second edition), of the monumental Roman history. Beautiful engraved maps (one of which is loose), as well as an engraving of Gibbon. Volume 2  with a cancel leaf on p. 41. Each interior is intact; spots of foxing and some bubbling to the pages. Volume 1 with its spine missing, along with the first several pages being loose; volume 3 has a partially missing spine. The leather labels are present on the others. Some cracking to the rest of the volumes; wear to all bindings. This would make an ideal set for the enterprising re-binder. Considering the volumes’ date of publication, the text blocks look marvelous, and have remained unmarked. 

“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

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