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 ...Read MoreGilbert 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.Read Less
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This is an endlessly fascinating view of the Enlightenment mind. White was a considerable scholar who applied his gifts to classification and observation of the fauna (particularly birds) of the Hampshire and Sussex countryside. Those who love swallows will be delighted by his obvious partiality for this most elegant of fliers. The book takes the form of letters to rwo gentlemen naturalists.
Writing in the late 18th century, White inhabited a world where bustards were still to be found on thr Downs, and the Linnean system had a rival. He takes nothing on trust, observing and recording meticulously. It is to him that we owe the distinction between the willow-warbler and the chiffchaff, based on painstaking observation. His fascination with the hirondidae extends to the then vexed question of their winter abode. White undertakes attempts to discover where they could be sheltering, and is aware through reading an account by an American naturalist that bird hibernation can occur. Here is the scientific method at its best - he keeps up-to-date with research but continues to test the truth of assertions. At the same time all his work is lit with a sense of awe at the beauty and wonder of Creation.
Jan 15, 2008
A dedicated observationalist, White presents a gentle review of evolution in one small area in exquisite detail while inviting the reader to wonder at the cosmic significance of change in a local place. Not for those interested in a quick, flashy read, but fascinating to anyone who glories in detail.
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