The Splendid Book Design of the 1946 Edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

decline of roman empire

In 1929, the book pub­lish­er George Macy found­ed The Lim­it­ed Edi­tions Club (LEC), an imprint tasked with pub­lish­ing fine­ly illus­trat­ed lim­it­ed edi­tions of clas­sic books. In the years to come, Macy worked with artists like Matisse and Picas­so, and pho­tog­ra­phers like Edward West­on, to pro­duce books with artis­tic illus­tra­tions on their inner pages. And some­times The Lim­it­ed Edi­tions Club even turned its design focus to oth­er parts of the book. Take for exam­ple this 1946 edi­tion of Edward Gib­bon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and its pret­ty amaz­ing spine design.

Cre­at­ed by Clarence P. Hor­nung, the design cap­tures the essence of Gib­bon’s clas­sic, show­ing Roman pil­lars pro­gres­sive­ly crum­bling as your eyes move from Vol­ume 1 to Vol­ume 7. George Macy lat­er called the col­lec­tion, which also fea­tures illus­tra­tions by the great 18th-cen­tu­ry print­mak­er Gio­van­ni Bat­tista Pirane­si, “the most her­culean labor of our career.”

Find more infor­ma­tion about this 1946 edi­tion here. Or, if you have deep pock­ets, pur­chase a copy here.

Note: an ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in June 2015.

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