(London: Printed for Strahan and Cadell, 1777-88). 284 x 220 mm. (11 1/4 x 8 3/4"). Volumes II and III with errata leaves; all volumes without half-titles. Six volumes. Third Edition of Volume I; FIRST EDITIONS of Volumes II-VI.
Early 20th century(?) holland-backed blue-gray paper-covered boards, marbled edges. Engraved frontispiece portrait in volume I, two large folding maps and one smaller folding map (without the portrait in volume II called for by Norton). Front pastedowns with engraved bookplate of John Turner Ettlinger of Magdalen College, Oxford, dated 1947; early ink owner signature to title page or p. 1 of each volume. Norton 22, 23, 29; PMM 222. ◆Paper boards with trivial stains and soiling, some minor chipping to paper at edges, but the (albeit pedestrian) bindings entirely solid and with little wear. A handful of leaves in volumes II and III very foxed, otherwise a beautiful copy internally, the wide-margined leaves especially fresh and clean.
According to PMM, Gibbon's "masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style has remained one of the ageless historical works which . . . maintain their hold upon the layman and continue to stimulate the scholar." To his vast task of his account, "Gibbon brought a width of vision and a critical mastery of the available sources which have not been equaled to this day; and the result was clothed in an inimitable prose" that was elevated, cadenced, and graceful. DNB concludes that "'Decline and Fall' occupies the summit of European Enlightenment historiography. It engages with, carries forward, and extends what is most vital in that body of writing." Gibbon (1737-94) spent 20 years on his saga, publishing the first volume in 1776 and the last in 1788. The whole gives a comprehensive account of the entire Mediterranean area from the first century A.D. to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The first volume of our set comes as it usually appears on the market--in a later edition with the earlier printing errors resolved--but with all of the other volumes in first edition. While our bindings would not dress up a shelf like a set in crimson morocco or diced Russia, they do give the feeling of publisher's boards, in which the present work would virtually never be found. (CDO2213)