Top positive review
67 people found this helpful
on 28 June 2005
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 ? )
This book, one of my favourites, is easily deserving of more than five stars. A brilliant piece of literature. Incidently, Selbourne is still good for birdwatching today, even if many of the birds of White's day are no longer found in the village.