The Natural History of Selborne

Front Cover
Front cover of the 1879 edition

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, or just The Natural History of Selborne was a book by pioneering English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White first published in 1789.

It has been continuously in print since then, with nearly 300 editions up to Thames & Hudson's The Illustrated Natural History of Selborne in 2007. This book was a compilation of 44 of his letters to Thomas Pennant, the leading British zoologist of the day, and 66 letters to the Hon. Daines Barrington, an English barrister and another Fellow of the Royal Society. In these letters, White detailed the natural history of the area around his family home at the vicarage of Selborne in Hampshire.

With thanks to Wikipedia

During the period that Gilbert White was writing the letters that make up the The Natural History of Selborne his sister Anne was married to Thomas Barker, the meteorologist, who owned the estate and lived at Lyndon Hall. A letter to Gilbert from a friend, John Mulso, of 13th December 1750 before the wedding makes a revealing comment about the bridegroom - and bride - "I heartily wish your Sister much Happiness in her new State: with her cheerful and easy Temper She will be ye best wife in the world to Mr. Barker, and may manage to her own Content and his Advantage that extreme Abstractedness and Speculativeness to which I hear He is naturally prone."

Thomas Barker and his family were in constant communication with Gilbert White and as a result of these letters there are several mentions of Lyndon in The Natural History of Selborne.

From Letter V To Thomas Pennant, Esquire -
A very intelligent gentleman assures me (and he speaks from upwards of forty years' experience) that the mean rain of any place cannot be ascertained till a person has measured it for a very long period. 'If I had only measured the rain,' says he, 'for the four first years from 1740 to 1743, I should have said the mean rain at Lyndon was 16 and a half inches for the year, if from 1740 to 1750, 18 and a half inches. The mean rain before 1763 was 20 and a quarter, from 1763 and since, 25 and a half; from 1770 to 1780, 26. If only 1773, 1774 and 1775 had been measured, Lyndon mean rain would have been called 32 inches.'

From letter LII to The Honourable Daines Barrington - Selborne, Sept. 9, 1781
P.S. One swift was seen at Lyndon, in the county of Rutland, in 1782, so late as the third of September.

From letter LXII To The Honourable Daines Barrington
The autumn preceding January 1768 was very wet, and particularly the month of September, during which there fell at Lyndon, in the county of Rutland, six inches and an half of rain. And the terrible long frost of 1739-40 set in after a rainy season, and when the springs were very high.
Severe frosts seem to be partial, or to run in currents; for, at the same juncture, as the author was informed by accurate correspondents, at Lyndon in the county of Rutland, the thermometer stood at 19: at Blackburn, in Lancashire, at 19: and at Manchester at 21, 20, and 18. Thus does some unknown circumstance strangely overbalance latitude, and render the cold sometimes much greater in the southern than in the northern parts of this kingdom.

Bewick wood engraving

 

Insects