[WHITE, Gilbert]. ~ The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne in the County of Southampton.
First edition. 9 plates including large folding engraved frontispiece and two title vignettes all from the drawings of S.H. Grimm, with the errata leaf. Pp. v, [blank], 1-468, [12, index} plus errata leaf (p.292 misnumbered 262 as usual). 4to., bound in contemporary half green morocco with marbled paper covered sides, with gilt rules and ‘bird bath’ tools to panels of spine, lettered in gilt in second panel. A very handsome and clean copy, boards with some rubbing and a little expert repair to corners and headcaps.
Frontispiece with slight tear to very right hand side where it is bound in affecting only the very edge of the image, plate IV trimmed to the edges of the image.
Presented as a series of letters to the great antiquarian and zoologist Thomas Pennant and Daines Barrington, the book by this eighteenth century intellectual and curate was one of the most published books in the English language. White observed the natural world in precise, scientific detail over many years and the Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne was published after 40 years of observations and it has been argued that Darwin, who mentioned the influence of White, might not have come to his theory of evolution without White’s emphasis on the importance of close observation of the natural world.
It was Gilbert White who first developed the idea of the ‘food chain’, as such he can be seen as the father of ecology as well as being a pioneer of modern research methods such as fieldwork. Mabey in his biography of White argues that he was the indispensable precursor to the generation which would change our ideas about life on Earth such as Lyell and Darwin.