Edward Gibbon Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

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Edward Gibbon Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Modificato: Nov 24, 2013, 11:38pm

Are their any opinions/views as to the FS editions of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Gibbon's masterpiece . I ask because I have vol 1- 4 bound in white and vols 5 -6 in brown . I would like to complete the set , but which edition is more desirable? A negative is that the FS publication lacks the copious but important footnotes . The alternative is to ditch the 6 vols I own and acquire another edition entirely complete with footnotes. Thanks

Nov 24, 2013, 11:44pm

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Nov 25, 2013, 3:18am

>1 Africansky1:,2 I'm definitely with Eclectic and Everyman for this set. This particular Folio edition with its butchered footnotes was sadly a case of the Decline and Fall of Substance to the Goths and Vandals of Style. .

Nov 25, 2013, 9:50am

The FS Decline and Fall was a missed opportunity. I have always had hopes that FS would comission a new edition, perhaps a nice leather or marble bound LE, and do it properly this time. In the meantime, the Everyman Library edition is best.

Nov 25, 2013, 10:13am

Agreed. I actually read Gibbon in his entirety from January-April this year and the footnotes were easily the best part of the work. I stopped counting his witty potshots at 18th-century English/European society after the first 20 pages or so. For someone who doesn't know Greek and/or Latin, you can skip a fair number of the notes, as they're just quoting from the classical authors.

The majority of the notes, though, are incredibly illuminating and cogently presented, and very much well worth reading in tandem with the main text itself. These notes have rightly been called Gibbon's "table talk": the Decline and Fall is Gibbon at his most magisterial, whereas the notes are him at his most accessible.

If you haven't already purchased (or already own) the Everyman edition, buy it posthaste! :) And then give yourself a few months to read through the whole thing, naturally.

Nov 25, 2013, 11:08am

>1 Africansky1:

For a modern, critical edition of Gibbon, with all the footnotes and more, take a look at David Womersley's edition, published by Allen Lane in 1994, ISBN 0713991240. It comes in 3 hardback volumes, originally issued in a slipcase, and is printed on archival paper. It's more expensive than the Everyman (it cost £75 when I bought it in 1995), but has the advantage of a newly-derived text, "complete and unmodernized, and illuminates it with an unrivalled wealth of related material." There is more information here in my catalogue entry:


Incidentally, I compared a few of the footnotes in the Folio and Womersley editions here, in >52, and the thread contains a lively discussion of the pros and cons of the Folio version:


Nov 25, 2013, 2:10pm

Thank you everyone ... I am moving towards ditching my Folio volumes and buying the Womersley set, which
Seems an easy purchase . Is the print in the Everyman edition easy to read?

Modificato: Nov 25, 2013, 6:52pm

>7 Africansky1: It's perfectly fine up until about the fifth page G&T.

Modificato: Nov 25, 2013, 9:59pm

Cronshaw ...You've given me my first laugh of the day .. And it's early here about 4. 30 am with a wide expanse of sky outside .. Grey to blue dawn sky with that rose pink edging peeping through with a light luminosity .

Nov 25, 2013, 11:08pm

A valuable companion is his Memoirs of My Life that the FS published a few years ago. It is a moving insight on being a writer.

Modificato: Nov 29, 2013, 3:09pm

I noticed something funny in the first volume of the FS edition. The map (at the beginning and at the end of the book) presents two slight mistakes:
1. Cilicia spelt as Cilisia.
2. "R. Borysthenes" shown along the Dniester instead of the Dnieper. (I noticed this because it was inconsistent with what was said in the text about Borysthenes's mouth.)

Interestingly, these two mistakes are not reproduced in the maps of the following volumes, which seem to have been drawn by the same person, but of course with alterations to take into account the different invasions.

I just wondered if these mistakes in Vol. 1 have been reproduced since this set was first published.

PS - My set was published in 2011, first printing 1983.

Nov 29, 2013, 6:24pm

>11 Pepys: I have the second printing of volume 1, from 1984, and it does have the "Cilisia" mistake. But it does not even have the "Dnieper" alternate for R. Borysthenes. Volume 2, also a second printing, has "Dnieper" in parens below R. Borysthenes, and has "Cilicia". Further volumes in the series, all first printings, only have "R. Dnieper" for that river, if they name that river at all. It is interesting that one of yours has "Dniester" in such a late printing.

Nov 30, 2013, 9:11am

>11 Pepys:

I have the first printing of the "new binding, 1995" (that's the first one with the white/cream marbled elephanthide paper covers). It reproduces all the errors and corrections mentioned by Pepys and garyjbp, so it does look as though nothing has changed since the very first printing in 1983.

Nov 30, 2013, 9:44am

#12> Perhaps I haven't explained properly what happens with the inscription "R. Borysthenes" in my vol. 1: it has no alternate name in parenthesis, but it's put along the wrong river, the Dniester, which flows half-way between the Danube and the Dnieper.

In vol. 2 (and the following volumes where the river is named), the full inscription reads "R. Borysthenes (Dnieper)" and is put in it's right place along the Dnieper.

It's simply funny that this error has never been corrected over these 30 years...

Nov 30, 2013, 9:45am

Another friend who I encountered in our favourite Rosebank bookshop said that he had been disappointed with The FS edition and his choice was the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great book series , there are 2 volumes of Gibbons with footnotes . But not available in our favourite shop at the moment. The Boswell Life of Johnson was available in that series (I have another edition ) so passed it by, but it's a reasonable print size, easy to handle and quite acceptable.

Nov 30, 2013, 9:53am

The Gibbon FS edition is indeed cheaply done, especially the illustrations. But the binding is good. Bound by TJ International, Cornwall, which did a good job (good spine, not flattening and showing no gap at all at the top (measured with boldface's gapometer)).

Nov 30, 2013, 11:22am

Ah! I guess I concluded that "Dniester" was a misspelling of "Dnieper". Then, in Vol 2, since the real Dniester wasn't labeled at all, I overlooked that the "Borysthenes" had been moved. So my early volumes are just like yours. I looked at Gibbon's "Atlas of the World" to see if maybe the mapmaker was misled by Gibbon himself, but Gibbon has them correctly labeled in all the maps where they appear.

Nov 30, 2013, 1:41pm

#17> Interesting complement. I didn't know that Gibbon had produced an atlas. It would help me a lot, because I keep consulting Wikipedia while reading the D&F, and it slows me down, because I'm always attracted by something else in the page I access...

Nov 30, 2013, 3:16pm

>18 Pepys: There are several copies of the FS edition of the atlas available on ABE in the UK. It is augmented by modern versions of the maps. The introduction says that Gibbon himself was frustrated by the old maps he had while he was writing the D&F, which would explain why you are frustrated with the references yourself.

Nov 30, 2013, 4:41pm

#19> ... And frustrated by the map in the endpapers of the FS volume... (I mean, everybody knows normally where Rome, Athens or Alexandria stand, but other less known cities are not shown; the existence of a separate atlas is an explanation to such a meager map.)

Since you mentioned this atlas (thanks), I now keep an eye on eBay too.

Dic 2, 2013, 11:02am

Sorry for being (slightly) OT. Can I ask if anyone has read any of the Folio Society series The Barbarian Invasions by Thomas Hodgkin, originally published I understand as Italy and her Invaders? There's a dearth of reviews generally about this work whose subject seems quite fascinating, and in dressed in Folio it looks rather handsome (though yes I know, 'Don't judge a book by its Folio binding'...).

Dic 2, 2013, 12:40pm

> 21
I own and have read all of them. It was quite a while ago, sometime after finishing up Gibbon. This was not an era of history that I was very familiar with so I found them fascinating and informative. Hodgkin is a bit dated, but still useful, and from what I recall, an engaging writer. I would recommend.

Modificato: Dic 2, 2013, 2:46pm

>21 cronshaw:

Cronshaw, there's some factual information on the Hodgkin set in my catalogue:


Edited to say view in style D.

Modificato: Dic 11, 2013, 3:38pm

Thanks to garyjbp, I now own a copy of Gibbon's atlas bought from Abebooks.

And I notice something puzzling when I compare pages 27 and 28. The Antonini Vallum is shown on page 27 (1774 map) to stretch from the Solway Firth northeastwards up to a point which I can guess as close to Lindisfarne. And the Severi Vallum is between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

On page 28 (modern map), the Wall of Antoninus is redrawn in the place of the Severi Vallum, so that there are only two walls left, not three.

Any comment by one of you? Is it a mistake on the 1774 Italian map, or were there really three walls?

Edited PS. I mean: three walls, including of course the obvious Wall of Hadrian.

Dic 11, 2013, 10:22pm

>24 Pepys:

As far as I know, François, only two walls are acknowledged today:

1. Hadrian's Wall, which runs from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend, a distance of around 73 miles (118 km); and

2. The Antonine Wall, which runs for 37 miles (60 km) from Bridgeness on the Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde. Incidentally, unlike Hadrian's Wall, it was only ever built of turf.

It looks as though there was a lot of confusion about the walls in the eighteenth century, when little or no archaeological excavation had been done. I've found a reference as late as 1826, in which James Elmes mentions Vallum Hadriani, Vallum Agricolae, Vallum Antonini Pii, Vallum Severi, and Vallum Stilicinis in his A General and Bibliographical Dictionary of the Fine Arts :


In short, then, the 1774 map is just plain wrong.

I've also found an article in the pdf linked below about and 1845 map, Pierre Lapie’s Orbis Romanus ad Illustranda Itineraria, which apparently repeats much the same mistakes. See footnote 11 at the bottom of page 151:


Dic 12, 2013, 11:49am

The Times Atlas of the World shows the Cheviot Hills in the position of Gibbon's Antoninus Vallum. I suppose someone back then could be forgiven for taking them for a wall of sorts. Those hills essentially form the border between Scotland and England, and run nearly from one coast to the other.

Dic 12, 2013, 1:41pm

It's always a pleasure to read such knowledgeable answers. I can imagine Jonathan in his shed frenetically searching PDFs on the Internet. Thank you.

I learned a lot with Gibbon's 1st volume. For instance, I didn't know there was this Antonine Wall, although I remember having visited Hadrian's Wall last time I was in Northumberland. A long time ago. 30 years?

Gen 2, 2014, 10:27pm

I was looking at my FS Gibbons set and it has quite a few authors notes in the margins(?)

Frankly this is such an old study, I fail to see the use of the notes other than the historicity of the author's interpretations themselves.

The binding is quite nice!

Modificato: Gen 9, 2014, 12:41pm

Another funny mistake—at least, this is how I take it—at the beginning of the second Gibbon volume (FS edition): there is a 6-line summary written in capital letters at the beginning of Chapter 13, where MAXIMIAN is called MAXIMUM.

It's true that, in this chapter and the following, there are so many Maximian, Maximinus, Maxentius, Maximilla, etc., that Maximum could also do. However, it gives me the impression to read an Asterix book. Asterix and the Illyrians?

A very delayed PS - On the plate facing p. 62 of the second Gibbon volume, there is the reproduction of an engraving with the caption : "A view of the aqueduct which carries water from Salona to Diocletian's palace at ROME". (My capitals.) As Salona is in Dalmatia, this would make a very long aqueduct, I think, and water would have time to evaporate. So, I believe ROME should be read as Spalatro (Split). The same error appears in the list of illustrations at the beginning of the volume.

I believe this error has been there for ages, or at least since the Roman times.

Dic 7, 2014, 2:59pm

NEW - Funny mistake in Gibbon's Atlas, p. 44: River Rubicon is placed a few miles from Rome as an alternate name for River Fiumicino. The actual Rubicon should be sought due north from Rome on the Adriatic coast, between Cesena and Rimini (and not drawn on the map).

The reason for this mistake is probably the following: River Fiumicino, on the Adriatic coast, was identified as the ancient Rubicon in 1933 by Mussolini (yes!). But Fiumicino is also a coastal town close to Rome, better famed for the Rome airport. Hence the mistake made by the cartographer.

I cannot believe I'm the first one to notice this. Am I right in my deductions?

Dic 7, 2014, 5:02pm

I think you need to send these corrections to folio!

Dic 7, 2014, 11:23pm

Last year we visited Diocletian's palace in Split and Salona which is not too far away . Makes perfect sense that there would have been water conveyed by an aqueduct to the palace . Maybe a distance of 20 Kms . Salona now an archaeological site and museum , olive trees and modern houses surround the site . The most wonderful arena , stadium gives a great impression of what watching a grand Roman event could have been like. ( one needs a copy of Gibbon to read at this site ) . I recommend a visit to Salona , though it is difficult to find today and we kept losing ourselves . the Diocletian Palace is extraordinary , very built over and on in successive centuries but enough of Roman era grandeur remains to give a sense of life here if your chose this beautiful place on the sea to retire to . The Archaeological museum on outskirts of older town is also a must see ( about a 25 min walk from the old centre ) .

Modificato: Set 20, 2015, 9:33am

>6 boldface:

Hello boldface,

Could you let me know if the boards are covered by glossy paper or cloth in this edition, please?

Best regards and many thanks.

Set 21, 2015, 2:13pm

>33 jaguilarrod:

Hi jaguilarrod. The Womersley edition binding looks like black cloth but it's probably textured and coated (but matt finish) paper. However, it's good quality - I've had my set since 1995 and it's still in perfect condition with no signs of wear on tips or corners. There don't seem to be many proper cloth bindings on trade editions these days, at least not in the UK. This is high end of its type. There are dust jackets as well and a slipcase containing all three volumes.

Gen 5, 2020, 3:07pm

To resurrect an old thread, >6 boldface: how does the typeface compare in the Allen Lane vs. the Everyman?

I'm trying to figure out which copy of this to buy, and I've ruled out the FS edition based on the comments here on LT and elsewhere. Below is the information I've been able to pull together from various threads on LT and some other sites.

The LEC edition has that lovely crumbling column binding design (though in fragile material), the Bury text, letterpress printing, single slipcase, and the Piranesi illustrations, but the cheapest version I found was $600, and in good condition at best.

The HP edition has the Bury text, Piranesi illustrations, and a similar binding design to the LEC (though in 3 books rather than 7, with individual slipcases rather than one for the whole set), but I can pick up a near fine set for $30. That said, there was a review from the NY Review of Books in 1963 that alleged that the binding of this edition was too flimsy, although I haven't seen anyone else comment on that.

The Allen Lane version in 3 volumes has the updated Wormersley text and additional material, including Gibbon's "Vindication" in the appendix, but has a very busy binding design. I assume it is unillustrated. I can pick up a like new set for $55.

The Everyman Library version in 6 volumes with the Bury text (but without Bury's notes to Gibbon' notes, according to Wikipedia), complete footnotes, large very readable text, and relatively plain binding seems to be a lot of LT-ers go-to edition. I assume it is unillustrated. I can pick that up new for $90. However, I have seen commentary that the lettering on the binding wears out relatively quickly just by the act of holding the book while you read, which would be a drawback for a set with an already relatively plain binding.

The Easton Press version in 6 leather-bound volumes with the Bury text, Piranesi illustrations, LEC-style binding design, and typical Easton Press features (gilded page edges, ribbon marker, silk moire endpapers, etc.) can be picked up in fine condition for $250-$300. I haven't been able to determine whether this has the full complement of footnotes (I saw one comment that it lacked most of them, although I thought EP usually just reprinted the LEC texts), nor have I seen anything about the typeface.

I assume the HP and LEC texts have the full complement of footnotes, although I have not been able to verify that anywhere. I have also seen commentary to suggest that in some editions of this work there are some notes/comments in the margins, as opposed to just in footnotes, but I don't know to which of the above editions that applies.

Does anyone have any additional thoughts/comments/corrections to my breakdown?

If the Allen Lane has a decently sized typeface, that might end up being the winner for the updated scholarship - though I'd rather have the LEC/HP/Easton on my shelf for looks.

Gen 5, 2020, 3:44pm

>35 jsg1976:

Folio conducted a survey about a year ago to test the water for proposed new limited editions. This was one of the candidates:

The History of the Decline and Fall of Roman Empire, 1776–89.
Edward Gibbon

Originally published in six volumes, Gibbon’s epic is one of the most famous works of history and deserves its place in the heart of any serious collection. Covering not only the Roman Empire but also the history of early Christianity and of Europe from AD 98 to 1590, our edition would consist of the complete text, presented with all of Gibbon’s footnotes, and a leather binding to complement this literary monument.

I haven’t heard anything more since then.

Gen 5, 2020, 4:21pm

>35 jsg1976:

I'm afraid I can't compare the Allen Lane with the Everyman edition as I don't own the latter. I was merely referring to the relative prices of the two editions in >6 boldface: above.

That said, I own other Everyman editions and, although they may or may not have the same size of typeface as the Gibbon, I think you hit the nail on the head in your last sentence. Go for Womersley if you must have a more modern scholarly edition, but choose the Everyman for a more pleasing look on the shelf. One point to note, perhaps, is that each of the three Womersley tomes is going to be somewhat larger and heavier than each of the six Everymans (assuming the Everyman Gibbon confirms to ordinary-sized Everyman volumes). Sorry I can't be of more help.

Gen 5, 2020, 4:40pm

>35 jsg1976:

You can find the LEC for less if you don't mind the spine damage. I wouldn't pay the premium for better conditions as there's no reason to think the leather won't continue rotting once you have it on your shelf.

Modificato: Gen 5, 2020, 6:51pm

Thanks everyone.

>37 boldface: how do you find the typeface in the Allen?

Gen 5, 2020, 7:01pm

>35 jsg1976:

The EP does not contain all footnotes as far as I'm aware. I'd considered it previously but skipped out after discovering this - it felt like an abridgement.

The Everyman's edition from UK retailers includes dust jackets so the spine printing wearing out shouldn't be an issue. These don't have the little front cover designs that the US versions do though. Blackwell's offers free shipping if you're in Canada and, I think, the US as well.

Gen 5, 2020, 7:27pm

I have all six volume of Everyman's and have read each of them. There is no noticeable wear on the binding, they look great on the shelf.

Gen 5, 2020, 10:23pm

>39 jsg1976:

The type in the Allen Lane edition is perhaps a point smaller than the average Everyman in my collection, but it's crisp and clear and the lines are slightly more spaced. As I've said, I can't compare it specifically to the Everyman Gibbon as I don't have that particular edition.

Modificato: Gen 7, 2020, 8:44am

Questo messaggio è stato cancellato dall'autore.

Modificato: Gen 9, 2020, 10:45pm

>3 cronshaw: cronshaw:

Can you explain what you mean by butchered footnotes? I've not another edition to compare to and have yet to read through Folio's. Butchered insofar as content, or?

Gen 10, 2020, 5:45pm

>44 tjnucci:
There is a whole massive thread on this point from years ago on this forum. Do a search and you will find it.

Gen 14, 2020, 12:13am


I think I managed to find the thread you're alluding to, but I'm still uncertain where the abridged footnotes claim works into things. The Folio edition claims it goes off of the Everyman's edition--but doesn't the Everyman's edition contain full footnotes? Sorry to ask you to rehash something that you've covered before, I just want to make sure before I sell the Folio set off to buy an edition that contains full footnotes. Thanks!

Gen 14, 2020, 12:47am

As Boldface mentioned on said thread...
In the 'Introduction to Volume I' of the FS edition, the editor, Betty Radice, writes:
"The Folio Society's edition of Gibbon's 'The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' is planned in eight volumes, which will contain the whole of the original text, based on Dent's Everyman edition of 1910. The notes included are all by Gibbon, but are only a selection from the great number he wrote. They are chosen to illustrate as many aspects as possible of the author, and to refer to points suggested in the present editor's Introduction."

And as Quicksilver mentioned...
I don't have the 1910 Everyman but I have read the current Everyman Gibbon which I believe is also based on the 1910 edition but reset.

The footnotes are intact, but there is another irritant in the form of an over zealous Edwardian editor (Oliver Smeaton, I think) who constantly adds his own supplemental footnotes to Gibbons text. Smeaton snaps at Gibbons heels like a badly trained terrier.



Gen 14, 2020, 1:44am

>48 LesMiserables:

Heck! Have I been on here for over ten years?!!!!!

Gen 14, 2020, 1:59am

>49 boldface:
Indeed, a few of us have survived a decade and more!

Gen 14, 2020, 4:48am

Those were the times

Gen 14, 2020, 4:05pm

Thanks guys

Gen 15, 2020, 4:02am

The astounding thing is why anyone would go to the time and effort of bringing in an editor with the seeming sole purpose of CUTTING the work, rather than ADDING to it. The footnotes are part of the joy of Gibbon to show the wealth of sources and how he gathered it all together into a coherent whole.

Gen 15, 2020, 4:57am

My Everyman's Edition is the 1993 edition with complete footnotes.

Modificato: Gen 15, 2020, 12:54pm

>53 InVitrio:

It's not that astonishing. Publishing a work of that length is incredibly expensive. There's little enough margin as it is, even abridged. And outside of this forum, I've met exactly one person, IRL, that's read Gibbon so it's not exactly a sure bet.

Modificato: Giu 20, 4:03pm

Does the David Womersley 3 volume edition published by Allen Lane contain J Bury's original notes? Is the Womersley the full and complete critical edition? From what I gather here in the discussion, it seems so. I am rather thinking about picking up Bury's 7 volume edition, reprint 1974 by AMS but if Womersley's 3 volume is the better of the two then I'll go for this one. If I'm going use the next three or four months of my life reading Gibbon, why not read the best edition available

EDIT: "In the end, though the re-publication of a work as provocative and pleasurable as The Decline and Fall must be a cause for celebration, it is difficult to find reasons why those who already possess editions should think of buying this one." - Peter N. Miller, University of Chicago, International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Issue 4.2 (Fall 1997)


I'm always interested in academic and scholarly discussion such as these and if anyone has access to this article on JSTOR I would amicably be obliged to be in receipt to what it concludes


Giu 20, 4:09pm

>56 ironjaw:
I've got the 1994 hardback not the later Penguin Classics paperback. I don't know if there are any differences to the text between the two editions. Although I gather you have your eye on the hardback in any case.

It doesn't have J Bury's notes. It is a full and complete critical edition. It includes an appendix of Gibbon's marginalia taken from two sets in the British Library, and Gibbon's A Vindication justifying his treatment of Christianity in the final to chapters of (the original) volume one.

Giu 20, 4:27pm

>57 housefulofpaper: Thanks. It's never easy is it? I wonder if anyone has read J Bury's notes and what their opinion would be?

Giu 20, 5:12pm

>57 housefulofpaper:
Womersley's aim was to present a full and critical text of an important piece of 18th Century English literature, rather than to buttress Gibbon's text with two centuries' worth of later findings.

As an aside, given that it was Betty Radice's long-held wish to publish Gibbon as a Penguin Classic, I presume the Folio version with the excised footnotes is how she would have edited it for Penguin. And then, when the work does finally come to Penguin, it's in Womersley's all-bells-and-whistles edition.

Giu 21, 9:25am

>56 ironjaw:

Much as I admire J. B. Bury (I'm very fond of his History of Greece), his editions of Gibbon were published between 1898 and 1925, so I would go with Womersley for a more up-to-date take. Of course, it would always be nice to have both. But everyone has his or her own opinions, likes and prejudices!

Giu 21, 11:13am

>60 boldface: I believe you’re right Jonathan. I shall go for that. Are there any other books companion guides or readers that would be beneficial to have alongside one’s reading of Gibbon. If memory serves me right, there was an Gibbon Atlas?

Giu 21, 2:58pm

Yes, Faisel: Edward Gibbon's Atlas of the World, published in 1991. You should be able to find a copy for £20 or less.

Giu 22, 8:14am

>63 affle: thanks

Giu 22, 12:14pm

>55 MobyRichard: "It's not that astonishing. Publishing a work of that length is incredibly expensive. There's little enough margin as it is, even abridged. "

But surely it is far cheaper not to bother with abridging the footnotes at all? Just print the whole lot as was. It must have taken weeks of editorial work to make the book worse.