Natural History of Selborne.

By Gilbert White

Printed: 1962

Publisher: Folio Society. London

Dimensions 17 × 26 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 26 x 2

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Cream cloth binding with grey woodland and house image. Brown title plate and gilt lettering on the spine.

A very well kept Folio book.

When the pioneering naturalist Gilbert White (1720-93) wrote The Natural History of Selborne (1789), he created one of the greatest and influential natural history works, his detailed observations about birds and animals providing the cornerstones of modern ecology. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by W. S. Scott.

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, or just The Natural History of Selborne is a book by English parson-naturalist Gilbert White (1720–1793). It was first published in 1789 by his brother Benjamin. It has been continuously in print since then, with nearly 300 editions up to 2007.

The book was published late in White’s life, compiled from a mixture of his letters to other naturalists—Thomas Pennant and Daines Barrington; a ‘Naturalist’s Calendar’ (in the second edition) comparing phenology observations made by White and William Markwick of the first appearances in the year of different animals and plants; and observations of natural history organized more or less systematically by species and group. A second volume, less often reprinted, covered the antiquities of Selborne. Some of the letters were never posted and were written for the book.

White’s Natural History was at once well received by contemporary critics and the public and continued to be admired by a diverse range of nineteenth and twentieth century literary figures. His work has been seen as an early contribution to ecology and in particular to phenology. The book has been enjoyed for its charm and apparent simplicity, and the way that it creates a vision of pre-industrial England.

The original manuscript has been preserved and is displayed in the Gilbert White museum at The Wakes, Selborne.

Gilbert White FRS (18 July 1720 – 26 June 1793) was a “parson-naturalist”, a pioneering English naturalist, ecologist, and ornithologist. He is best known for his Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne.

White was born on 18 July 1720 in his grandfather’s vicarage at Selborne in Hampshire. His grandfather, also Gilbert White was at that time vicar of Selborne. Gilbert White’s parents were John White (1688- 1758) a trained barrister and Anne Holt (d. 1740). Gilbert was the eldest of eight surviving siblings, Thomas (b. 1724), Benjamin (b. 1725), Rebecca (b. 1726), John (b. 1727), Francis (b. 1728/9), Anne (b. 1731), and Henry (b. 1733). Gilbert’s family lived briefly at Compton, Surrey, before moving into ‘The Wakes’ in 1728, that was to be his home for the rest of his long life.

Gilbert White was educated in Basingstoke by Thomas Warton, father of Joseph Warton & Thomas Warton, who would have been Gilbert’s school fellows. There are also suggestions that he may have attended the Holy Ghost School [1] before going to Oriel College, Oxford in December, 1739. He took his degree as Bachelor of Arts in June, 1743. In March 1744 he was elected fellow of the college. In October 1746 he became Master of Arts.

White obtained his deacon’s orders in 1746, being fully ordained in 1749, and subsequently held several curacies in Hampshire and Wiltshire, including Selborne’s neighbouring parishes of Newton Valence and Farringdon, as well as Selborne itself on four separate occasions. In 1752/53 White held the office of Junior Proctor at Oxford and was Dean of Oriel. In 1757 he became non-resident perpetual curate of Moreton Pinkney in Northamptonshire. After the death of his father in 1758, White moved back into the family home at The Wakes in Selborne, which he eventually inherited in 1763. In 1784 he became curate of Selborne for the fourth time, remaining so until his death. Having studied at the more prestigious Oriel, at the behest of his uncle, he was ineligible to be considered for the permanent living of Selborne, which was in the gift of Magdalen College.

White died in 1793 and was buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, Selborne.

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