London: W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1781-88. Mixed edition. 6 vols., quarto, full contemporary calf rebacked, black calf labels, spines gilt, boards gilt-ruled.
Mixed edition of Gibbon's landmark work of historiography, spanning 13 centuries, from the reigns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius at the close of the Pax Romana, through the establishment of the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades, to the fall of Constantinople. "Gibbon's great erudition, breadth of treatment, and powerful organization render [the History] a lasting monument... His measured and dignified prose is cool, lucid, and enlivened by ironic wit, much of it aimed at the early Church and the credulity and barbarism that overwhelmed the noble Roman virtues he so much admired" (Drabble, The Oxford Companion to English Literature). Gibbon spent over 20 years researching and writing his masterpiece, the first volume of which appeared in 1776 in an edition of 1000 copies. An overnight success, the volume quickly went through two more editions, with a fourth edition, bearing Gibbon's final revisions, readied for the press just as the second and third volumes were set to appear, in 1781. The present set is made up of that 1781 fourth edition of vol. I, along with 1781 first editions of vols. II and III, and first editions of vols. IV-VI (published 1788). With engraved frontispiece portrait of Gibbon by John Hall after Sir Joshua Reynolds in vol. I, map of the "Eastern Part of the Roman Empire" in vol. II, and maps of the "Western Part of the Roman Empire" and "Parts of Europe and Asia Adjacent to Constantinople" in vol. III (the latter in its rarer folding, uncropped state). Half-titles present in all vols. except vol. I; errata leaves present in vols. II, III and VI. PMM 222. Contemporary bookplates of the Duke of Montrose, Peerage of Scotland (either William Graham or his son James). Minor light scattered foxing. Contemporary boards with occasional scuffs to edges, corners gently banged. An excellent set, handsomely rebacked. Item #340