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The Illustrated Natural History of Selborne [Hardcover]

Gilbert White , June E. Chatfield
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Illustrated 14.95  

Book Description

30 Sep 1981
More than two centuries have passed since Gilbert While was laid to rest in his unassuming grave in Selborne churchyard but White's accurate study of the flora and fauna of his native parish, first published in 1789, still makes delightful reading today. His regular correspondence, beginning in 1767, with two distinguished naturalists, Thomas Pennant and the Honourable Daines Barrington, forms the basis of "The Natural History of Selborne". The fascination of the book lies in the magic of its prose and the vividness of its description, which have earned it the distinction of being the only work on natural history to have received equal acclaim as a masterpiece of English literature.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Webb & Bower; New Ed edition (30 Sep 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0906671477
  • ISBN-13: 978-0906671474
  • Product Dimensions: 25 x 19.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 766,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain. 16 Oct 2009
By Peter H
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this to replace my ancient tattered and faded Penguin paperback copy. At this price, it's a steal! Although a paperback, it is the usual Thames & Hudson high quality, with a strong double outer cover, proper binding, well printed on decent paper and full of superb period illustrations. I don't really miss my old version's extensive explanatory notes, since any obscure classical phrases are translated directly in the text. A thorough and detailed introduction completes the package, which is assuredly "most handsome".
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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Local Hero 28 Jun 2005
Format:Paperback
In the Eighteenth Century those members of the public who wished to broaden their knowledge of natural history , a science still very much in it's infancy, obviously did not have the benefit of television and enthusiatic presenters such as Bill Oddie. Instead, they were fortunate enough to be able to read Gilbert White's excellent " Natural History of Selbourne" - surely, even 200 years later, there can be no finer introduction to nature than this poetic collection of letters.
This is essentially a collection of White's well-meaning observations, some of which are amazingly accurate, others now known to be incorrect. However, the shear joy of his writing makes this one of those books that you wish there were more pages in once you have completed it. (How many Eighteenth Century books can you honestly say are a joy to read?)
Whilst this edition lacks the footnotes of the Penguin version of this book that highlight the errors and amplifications to his discoveries, this edition must surely get the nod for it's beautiful illustrations of the mammals. birds and plants by some of Gilbert White's contemporaries. This is, in fact, just how he wished the book to be published and makes this copy something to really treasure.
Given that he is believed to have had no optical aid such as binoculars(his fellows shot the birds for him!!), you can only marvel at how accurate he was. After all, it was White who initially distinguished the difference between Chiffchaff, Willow and Wood Warblers. This is still difficult for this birdwatching reveiwer. He was a fastidious observer of swifts , swallows and martins that abounded in the village back then. (I counted only 8 martin nests this summer - who says there is no such thing as global warming ?
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Please pay "ready attention" to this book. 18 Aug 2009
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
The letters of Gilbert White are probably more know through reference than reading - people are more likely to know of them because they are mentioned in other books rather than through the actual book itself. This is a shame. This book probably represents the "grand - father" of much of the nature writing that followed it - and for that reason alone many people, both reader and writers, are in its debt.

This book itself is a gentle stroll on foot and horseback through the seasons and landscapes of Selborne during the second half of the 1700's. This is a landscape rich in wildlife and character, and the author has both the skill as a naturalist and writer to bring it to life through the letters he writes - in many ways this is the blog from the 18th Century! But it is also so much more than just the random jottings of an observant man. Questions are pursued over the course of many years, and a good number of ideas and observations are floated that in time would become more important - and more well known. Only in one area does White really stray significantly from current understanding, and that is in his long search for evidence of hibernation in birds, especially those of the "swift and swallow kind".

My only criticism of the book relates to its layout rather than its style or content. Given the need to refer to the notes provided at regular intervals I would have preferred then to have been placed at the bottom of the page rather than at the back of the book, where they tend to act as a "break" on the flow of the text.

In some ways the list of (especially) birds he knows as common, but which are now rare, restricted or extinct in the area, is a marker of how much our landscapes have changed with the passing of the years.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of Selborne 29 Mar 2011
By mikep
Format:Paperback
A beautiful book produced with good quality paper and print, and beautiful pictures. I also bought a copy for a friend who often read the old small printed version and he thinks its great.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read 12 Aug 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you like intelligent writing and matters rural and historical then you will surely enjoy this book.

I knew of Gilbert White, (1720 - 1793) but very little about him before reading this book, but I now have a clear impression of the life that he led.

This book has been a fascinating read for many reasons. The most obvious is learning about this rather `odd ball' of a person, who on one level lived an unremarkable and gentle life as a village curate. Whilst on a broader and encompassing level, by his keen powers of observation and journal keeping, left behind him a priceless legacy of an account of the natural history, (focussed largely on the local ornithology) of the, at the time, isolated Hampshire village of Selbourne.

Maybe has deftly encapsulated for us the lengthy process, stretching over some twenty years or more, by which White's natural history of Selbourne came into being. He absolutely conveys White's quirky character and his overriding passion for the hirundines - swallows, swifts and house-martins.

But this biography provides us with so much more than a straight forward account of one man, because it is interwoven with wonderful snippets of social history of the Georgian period through which Gilbert White lived. We gain glimpses of southern English rural village life as well as learning some of the clerical politics at the time. Fascinating too are the references to the macro events of the threat of a French invasion along the southern coast and later the French revolution and how these were reacted to in this country.

This book won the Whitbread biography of the year award and one can see why. It is a shame that subsequently, judging by the paltry number of reviews it has received, it seems to have been overlooked because this is a book worthy of your time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, in a very good (new
Wonderful book, in a very good (new?) state. Hard to believe that it only cost 0,01 while in the mean time I received adds for the same title, same print, for 14,95! Read more
Published 8 days ago by Marja Goossens
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book.
An interesting 'standard' - though it told me more about swallows ans swifts than I needed to know.
Published 1 month ago by B. F. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilbert White was the father of modern natural sciences
I am not a scientist, but after visiting Selborne, I bought this book and fell in love with White's house, thinking and his writing with its astonishing attention to detail. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Dynomum
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
Lovely, high quality edition. Clear pictures and illustrations; glossy paper. A4 sizing which makes it a great read or text to dip into.
Published 10 months ago by Mrs Harris
3.0 out of 5 stars The Natural History of Selborne - Gilbert White
This seems to me a rather strange and unlikely book to have become a best-seller, and yet apparently it was, both in its day and for many years afterwards. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sebastian Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page a Day, like the Bible
Gilbert White's classic, best in an illustrated edition like this or Century (1988), can be read like the Bible, a few paragraphs a day to muse on. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Paying Guest
4.0 out of 5 stars good condition as a secondhand book
very good value for the money
the book was in fair condition
it was bought as a present but I read it before giving it and found it a wonderful and enlightening read.
Published 14 months ago by john andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gilbert White Folio edition --illustrated by John Piper
An older version, but Piper's prints beautifully complement the well-known text. Ardis, who sent me the book, were particularly helpful in choosing this version.
Published 18 months ago by Mr. C. G. Amory
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book
This is a lovely edition of the Natural History of Selbourne with beautiful illustrations. I bought it as a birthday present and its definitely one to treasure.
Published 18 months ago by Mad but not actually dangerous
1.0 out of 5 stars what book
only received the wrong book, then was told it was not available, so cannot judge what it was like what a shame
Published 18 months ago by cooky
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