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The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volumes 1-3 of 6 (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – Box set, October 26, 1993
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+ It has all of Gibbon's footnotes;
+ it is packaged in an attractive boxed set;
+ it's hard bound in good plain cloth, not snobby leather;
+ it's printed on fine paper;
+ it can be expected to last into the next century;
+ it leaves enough white margin for writing notes;
+ it has an index;
+ it even smells good.
- It gives no translation of the better Latin and Greek passages;
- the black paste used to print the cover's gold-on-black logo flakes off;
- don't forget to order the other half (volumes 4, 5, and 6).
(The only other edition worth considering is the unabridged paperback Penguin edition. It also contains the full notes, and it is cheaper, but it is bulkier since two volumes are bound as one and the paper is of much lower quality, so the that other edition won't last much more than 10 or 20 years...)
A word about the text. Everyman's Library reprints the famous J.B. Bury edition (Bury was a famous Irish historian who wrote a well-respected History of Greece), which is close to 100 years old (it dates to 1909). If you're reading Gibbon for a history course on an undergraduate or post-graduate level, you should probably read the more recent David Womerseley edition, which is available in a three-volume Penguin paperback (with, unfortunately, unreadably microscopic type). The hardcover edition was remaindered recently, though, so you might find it on Amazon secondhand.
If you're reading Gibbon for pleasure, however, the Everyman's Library edition is the one to get. The individual volumes are just the right size, and the text is large enough and clear enough to be read easily. The text is complete, which is not always the case (some fancy editions -- the Folio Society's comes to mind -- tend to cut back on the footnotes).
Gibbon makes great bedtime reading. Take him slowly, and don't rush. Keep your eye on the footnotes -- some of the best and snarkiest stuff in Gibbon is discreetly hidden in the footnotes (in one of my favorite early footnotes [in Chapter IV] he mentions the giraffe, "the tallest, the most gentle, and the most useless of the large quadrupeds."). If you decide to push on to the second three volumes (Chapters 39-71), be prepared to be patient, because there are some rough spots. It might take you a while to get through it (my last reading of the entire work took me 26 months), but Gibbon is more than worth the effort. Which is why I've just started reading him again -- for the fifth time.
However, Gibbon does have some drawbacks- though it wasn't his fault. The Byzantine Empire, Slavs, Bulgarians, etc all get shafted by Gibbon. It's understandable since at the time this work was written, Byzantine study was not given serious thought. Overall a 5 star book! For Byzantine history I would recommend Procopius, Psellus, or "Romanus Lecapanus and his Reign" by Sir Steven Runcimen. Can't go wrong with those!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pressed for time here, so I'll keep this review to one word: awesome!Published 5 months ago by Bookreview79
i read the advertisement as volumes one through three and paid for that. then i only got volume three. why? BadwillSA.Published 19 months ago by bob
I bought it for my bf. He got it just on his birthday! It was a very good surprise :) He loves it!Published on December 30, 2013 by Helen
I have read two things about this work, its reliance solely on primary sources and its lovely prose. As an historian the latter quality is of no interest to me. Read morePublished on November 30, 2013 by Flint F. Johnson
Gibbon certainly has a slant, that being Christianity ruined the Roman Empire. That is like saying, Buddhism ruined of the Mongol Empire. Read morePublished on August 5, 2013 by John M. Beasley
Gibbon's prose is more felicitous and easier to read than much modern punditry. The three volume sets, bound and printed well, are of a comfortable reading size, and finally one... Read morePublished on June 22, 2013 by Sol Schindler
Very happy that I was able to acquired this set. I had originally had a set but foolishly gave them away after graduation. Read morePublished on April 17, 2013 by Definitive
This massive work is not for the faint of heart. Paragraphs run on for pages. Sentences have so many subordinate clauses you lose track of the commas and semi-colons. Read morePublished on March 15, 2013 by Dr Garry