(Amsterdam: au depens de la Compagnie, 1724). 250 x 195 mm. (9 7/8 x 7 5/8"). Two volumes. Second Edition.
Attractive contemporary sprinkled calf, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with floral sprig at center, oblique fleurons at corners, one red and one green morocco label. WITH 70 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES (48 in volume I, 22 in volume II), depicting battle scenes and plans, armor and weapons, and military ships. Front pastedown of volume I with "E. Gibbon" book label, both volumes with armorial bookplate of Edward Gibbon, Esq. Two leaves of notes in a 19th century hand laid in. Keynes, The Library of Edward Gibbon (1980), p.107 (this copy); Brunet II, 487; Graesse II, 324. Joints cracked on volume II (but boards still firmly attached), a bit of wear to joints on volume I, extremities slightly rubbed, but the bindings sound and pleasing. First and last four leaves of each volume with marginal browning transferred from turn-in glue, intermittent minor foxing (more pronounced on a score of gatherings), half a dozen leaves a bit browned, but still an excellent copy internally, with nothing approaching a major defect, the text generally clean and fresh, with ample margins, and the engravings sharply impressed.
Containing an original, important, and exhaustive treatment of the history of the French military, these volumes are of special interest because they resided in the library of one of the greatest historians of the 18th century. The work begins in the era of Clovis (ca. 500) and continues up to the author's own day, becoming more and more detailed as time passes, going so far as to include, for the most recent decades, the names of those killed in action from various regiments. Besides covering the history, tactics, and equipment of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy, the work examines different ranks and titles, banners, uniforms, and even martial music. Gabriel Daniel (1649-1728) was a Jesuit priest who served as librarian in the house of his order. He authored a massive 10-volume history of France that was considered authoritative in its day, but it is the present work on the military for which the highest praise is now generally reserved. The illustrations are noteworthy for the detailed studies of equipment and interesting for the unusual depiction of soldierly physique as tall, graceful, and willowy. As important as the content is here, the value of this copy resides in its provenance. In addition to writing one of the best-selling and most influential histories of all time, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Edward Gibbon (1737-84) was a bibliophile who assembled one of the best libraries of his day, containing between 6,000 and 7,000 volumes at the time of his death. The present work was apparently a rather early acquisition, as we can tell from the presence of his early book label as well as the book's inclusion in the 1777 catalogue done for his library. After Gibbon's death at Lausanne, the library was purchased for the handsome sum of £950 by William Beckford (1759–1844), known best as the author of "Vathek," who shut himself up and read from it until (in his words) he was "nearly blind." Beckford ended up giving the library to his physician, Frederic Scholl, who sold the present item and approximately 1,400 other works to John Walter Halliday in 1825, and our volumes eventually made their way into a Sotheby's auction in 1934. (ST15847)
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PJP Catalog: 76.141