GIBBON, Edward (1737-1794). The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume the First [-Sixth]. London: For W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776-1788.
6 volumes, 4o (296 x 238 mm). Half-titles. Volume I: errata leaf at end, X4, Rrr2, Sss4 and a4 are cancels. Volume II: errata leaf after page 640, engraved frontispiece portrait of Gibbon after Joshua Reynolds, publication date 1 February 1780, full-sheet folding map of the Western Roman Empire by Thomas Kitchen inserted before page 1, publication date 1 January 1781, half-sheet folding map of Constantinople and environs inserted before page 22, G1 and Ll1 are cancels. Volume III: errata leaf after page 640, 6 leaves of Table of Contents for volume I bound at end, full-sheet map of the Eastern Roman Empire inserted before page 1. Volume IV: H3 and L2 are cancels. (Some occasional insignificant marginal soiling.) Original blue boards, uncut (skillfully rebacked to match); chemises and slipcases.
Provenance: Lord Edwin Sandys (d. 1797), second Baron Sandys, son of Samuel Sandys (?1695-1770): presentation inscription by an amanuensis for the author on verso of front flyleaf in volume I: "From the Author"; inscribed by Sandys on the recto of the flyleaf: "Given me by the Author"; armorial bookplates -- Harold Greenhill: bookplates
FIRST EDITION of all volumes, VERY FINE IN THE ORIGINAL BOARDS, PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed in the hand of an amanuensis to Lord Edwin Sandys. Lord Sandys was the eldest son of Samuel Sandys who rose to political prominence by his "untiring opposition to Sir Robert Walpole, [but] his political importance quickly sank into insignificance after that minister's downfall" (DNB). Edwin Sandys died without issue on 28 February 1797, when the title became extinct.
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, the 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, Mr. Strahan predicted the popularity of the work and doubled the printing size from 500 to 1,000 copies, entailing the resetting of sheets B-Dd (pages 1-208) and a-b (i-xvi) in volume I. This copy contains the original setting of these sheets as outlined above. Strahan's instincts proved correct, with the entire first thousand copies selling out in a fortnight. Norton 20, 23, 29; PMM 222; Rothschild 942.
[With:] Edward Gibbon's... History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Illustrated by Treasures in the Chapin Library at Williams College. An exhibition at Williams College on the occasion of a visit by The Grolier Club, 11 November 2000. (6)