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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 is best known for his The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789). This is presented as a compilation of his letters to Thomas Pennant, the leading British zoologist of the day, and the Hon. Daines Barrington, an English barrister and another Fellow of the Royal Society, though a number of the 'letters' such as the first nine were never posted, and were written especially for the book. The book has been continuously in print since its first publication. It was long held, "probably apocryphally", to be the fourth-most published book in the English language after the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress
White's biographer, Richard Mabey, praises White's expressiveness:
What is striking is the way Gilbert [White] often arranges his sentence structure to echo the physical style of a bird's flight. So 'The white-throat uses odd jerks and gesticulations over the tops of hedges and bushes'; and 'Woodpeckers fly volatu undosu [in an undulating flight], opening and closing their wings at every stroke, and so are always rising and falling in curves.
White has often been seen as an amateur 'country writer', especially by the scientific community. However, he has been called 'the indispensable precursor to those great Victorians who would transform our ideas about life on Earth, especially in the undergrowth - Lyell, Spencer, Huxley and Darwin.' And he is under-rated as a pioneer of modern scientific research methods, particularly fieldwork. As Mabey argues, the blending of scientific and emotional responses to Nature was White's greatest legacy: 'it helped foster the growth of ecology and the realisation that humans were also part of the natural scheme of things.
Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.