GIBBON, Edward (1737-1794). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776-1788.
6 volumes, 4° (261 x 205 mm). Half-titles in each volume. Vol. I: engraved frontispiece portrait of Gibbon after Joshua Reynolds, dated 1 February 1780, 6-leaf expanded Contents, errata leaf, second, corrected issue; Vol. II: errata leaf, full-sheet folding map of the Western Roman Empire by Thomas Kitchen, half-sheet folding map of the Propontis, G1 and Ll1 are cancels; Vol. III: errata leaf, full-sheet map of the Eastern Roman Empire by Thomas Kitchen, p.177 correctly numbered and p.179, line 18 reading 'Honorious'; Vol. IV: H3 and L2 are cancels; Vol. VI: errata for volumes IV-VI on 4Uv. (Offsetting to title of vol. I, marginal tear in Z2 of vol. I just into text, but without loss; some occasional spotting and light browning affecting a few gatherings.) Contemporary calf gilt, marbled endpapers (rebacked preserving original spines). Provenance: Francis Ferrand Foljambe (stamp on spines).
FIRST EDITION, second corrected issue of volume I. Decline and Fall ranks as a 'masterpiece of historical penetration and literary style' and despite the numerous later works devoted to this voluminous subject remains 'the only historical narrative prior to Macaulay which continues to be reprinted and actually read' (PMM). Gibbon was fortunate in the choice of his publisher, William Strahan, friend of Dr. Johnson, Benjamin Franklin and David Hume, who with Cadell also published Adam Smith and James Macpherson. During the publication of the first edition, Strahan predicted the popularity of the work and doubled the print run from 500 to 1000 copies, entailing resetting of sheets. Strahan's instincts proved correct, and the entire first thousand copies sold out in a fortnight. 'Gibbon's style is probably the most exclusive in literature. By its very nature it bars out a great multitude of human energies' (Lytton Strachey Portraits in Miniature). Grolier English 58; Norton 20, 23, 29; PMM 222; Rothschild 942. (6)