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Antiquities of Selborne
County of Southampton
By Gilbert White
"• • . . Ego Apis Matinae
Grata carpentis .... per laborem
"Omnia bene describere, quae in hoc mundo, a Deo facia,
—Scopoli Ann. Hist. Nat.
Macmillan and Co. Limited
New York: The Macmillan Company
The first edition of Gilbert White's The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne was published by his brother's firm (B. White & Son) in 1789. It formed a handsome quarto, was illustrated with a few engravings of no great merit, and sold at a guinea. No other edition was published in England in White's lifetime, but in 1795, two years after his death, and ere yet his fame had reached the point at which it could overawe an editor's judgment in selection, Dr. John Aikin extracted from his papers the materials for a much smaller volume to which he gave the title, A Naturalist's Calendar with Observations in various Branches of Natural History by the late Rev. Gilbert White. The present edition consists of a faithful reprint of these two volumes, and is, as far as the writer can ascertain, the first in which they have been thus brought together without any addition or diminution. Editorial meddling in the case of Gilbert White has taken a strange variety of forms—he has even suffered the indignity of being 'arranged for young persons.' In 1802 an edition appeared of his Works in Natural History, the "Antiquities of Selborne," the artistic complement of his letters on its outdoor life, being omitted, as of too limited an interest to appeal to a discriminating public. The few pages thus saved were replaced by "a Calendar and Observations by W. Markwick, Esq.," the rival Calendar being incorporated with White's in the repellent form of a table, while in his observations Markwick treads on his predecessor's heels with lamblike sequacity. In 1813 some of White's poems were unearthed, and in the same year the stream ot 'additional notes' was set flowing by the appearance of those of John Mitford. A score of note-writers have since said their say, and no doubt the study of natural history has thereby been promoted. Certainly this has been the case by the use made in recent editions of the collection of White's papers now in the British Museum. But from the point of view of literature the author's own judgment may reasonably be trusted as to matters of less and more, and this edition has been arranged in the belief that there will be readers who will be glad to have White's work as he left it himself, with no other appendix than the few paragraphs which a friend selected from his papers soon after his death.
It should, perhaps, be stated for the benefit of those who are attracted to the book for the first time that of his two correspondents Thomas Pennant (1726-1798) was the author of a work on British Zoology, and of many 'Tours' in different parts of our islands, and the Hon. Daines Barrington (1727-1800), a 'lawyer, antiquary, and naturalist,' who in 1767 had himself published a 'Naturalist's Calendar.'
A. W. Pollard.