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Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $30.95

320 pp.
c. 18 black and white, 129 mm x 196 mm


Publication date:
September 2013

Imprint: OUP UK

The Natural History of Selborne

Gilbert White
Edited by Anne Secord

Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne (1789) reveals a world of wonders in nature. Over a period of twenty years White describes in minute detail the behaviour of animals through the changing seasons in the rural Hampshire parish of Selborne. He notes everything from the habits of an eccentric tortoise to the mysteries of bird migration and animal reproduction, with the purpose of inspiring others to observe their own surroundings with the same pleasure and attention.

Written as a series of letters, White's book has all the immediacy and freshness of an exchange with friends, yet it is none the less crafted with compelling literary skill. His gossipy correspondence has delighted readers from Charles Darwin to Virginia Woolf, and it has been read as a nostalgic evocation of a pastoral vision, a model for local studies of plants and animals, and a precursor to modern ecology. This new edition includes contemporary illustrations and an introduction setting the work in its eighteenth-century context, as well as an appendix tracking the remarkable range of responses to the work over the last two hundred years.

Readership : Anyone interested in natural history, the history of science, nature writing and the environment; students of eighteenth-century literature, the history of natural science, literature and science courses, environmental history.

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Gilbert White was born in 1720 in Selborne in Hampshire and went to Oriel College, Oxford, where he became a Fellow in 1743. He took ordination and held a number of curacies in the vicinity of Selborne before finally becoming permanent curate of his birthplace in 1784, a position he held until his death in 1793. In 1751 he started keeping his 'Garden Kalendar', and later the 'Naturalist's Journal' he kept for 25 years. The Natural History of Selborne is based on his correspondence with two distinguished naturalists, Thomas Pennant and Daines Barrington. Anne Secord is an Affiliated Research Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. The focus of her research and writing is on popular natural history in nineteenth-century Britain, and on horticulture, medicine, and consumption in the eighteenth century. She is completing a book that explores social class, observation, and skill in nineteenth-century natural history for the University of Chicago Press.

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Special Features

  • An attractive illustrated edition of Gilbert White's classic work of natural history that has delighted readers for more than 200 years.
  • Combining minute observation of the behaviour of animals and birds with anecdote and local description, White's appealing style has charmed and inspired readers from Charles Darwin to Virginia Woolf.
  • Includes c. 18 contemporary illustrations from the work of Thomas Pennant, one of White's chief correspondents.
  • The Introduction by Anne Secord sets the work in its eighteenth-century context, showing how its epistolary form is intrinsic to its appeal.
  • Features an Appendix of responses to The Natural History of Selborne from scientists, naturalists, poets, novelists, and writers over two centuries.
  • Useful Explanatory Notes add historical context and identification, and the edition also includes a Chronology and Biographical Index.