Wednesday, the 29th of July, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, and such. If you participate, link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

This week my pick is non-fiction, The Natural History and Antiquites of Selborne by Gilbert White. This book, first published in 1789 by the author’s brother Benjamin has been continuously in print since, with (according to the Goodreads description) over 300 editions until 2007.

The book is essentially a collection of over a hundred letters written by Gilbert White to Thomas Pennant, a zoologist and Danes Barrington a barrister, though many of these were never actually posted. The letters, among other things, are organised around plant and animal life cycles, and observations on different species including birds, quadrupeds and insects as well as vegetation besides general descriptions of Selborne. There are also some meteorological observations.

Gilbert White was born in July 1720 in his grandfather’s parish in Selborne, Hampshire. In 1749 he was ordained and obtained various curacies thereafter. Besides being a parson, he was also an ecologist, naturalist and ornithologist making detailed observations of nature and animals over years around Selborne where he spent a lot of time, including as a curate. The first edition of the book was illustrated by Swiss artist Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, who stayed at Selborne for about a month.

I have had this one on my TBR for a fairly long time, have downloaded a public domain copy a few years ago. Being interested in nature and animals generally, I thought a book written that long ago would give an interesting perspective. Also being written in letter form, it might be an easier and more interesting read than just text. This year Gilbert White himself turns 300, so it seems a good time for me to pick this one up finally.

Do you enjoy writings on nature? Which are some favourite books? Have you read this one? How did you like it? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

book description from Wikipedia (here) and Goodreads (here) and author description (here); cover image is as usual from Goodreads.

Find Lisa’s pick this week (here)


5 thoughts on “Shelf Control #101: The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White #TBR #Nature #Animals

  1. yes. love them, writings on nature.

    last two books i remember;

    1. The Hidden Life of Trees: What they feel, How they Communicate by Peter Wohlleben
    2. 2nd Ed. of Signs & Symbols:Origins and Meanings, by DK/Penguin Random House

    the first one i absolutely loved. there is a reference to the colonial times, where trees were brought from different parts of the world because of their economic value. and it turned out to be a failed project because all trees had their unique basic needs [climate, soil etc]. Also fascinating was that trees have a strong sense of community, and they are constantly sending nourishment, signals about predators to each other, and that they are likely to die if isolated from their tribe.

    the second book is actually about signs and symbols and their significance to societies. It talks about the natural and animal world and what they convey as totems, omens, animal gods etc. Based on this few animals, are worshiped and protected.

    I found a few eg’s particularly interesting;
    in ancient rome, wolf was a symbol of maternal care and victory. In the west, it symbolises greed and cruelty.
    Camels are symbolic of royalty and wealth, and its habit of kneeling has made it a symbol of prayer .
    The white horse, is a symbol of spiritual illumination and represents many gods.
    Also, the use of cats, tigers and lions in art is to symbolize animal nature or victory over one’s carnal nature. [Even the Tarot Card Deck has one with a woman taming a lion]

    I am glad you wrote nature and animals. Looking forward to more.


    1. Ha ha. The first one is also on my list– have been wanting to buy a copy of that.

      Second one sounds really interesting too–will add to my list!

      Another is Exotic Aliens by Valmik Thapar and Romila Thapar about how the Cheetah and Lion were first brought to India

      Glad you liked the post.


    2. Does the symbolism book also discuss myths–like why is the cat crossing one’s path considered ill luck?

      So many worshiped in India-elephant as Ganesha and his vahan mushak, peacock as kartikeya’s vahan, lion as ma durga’s, Hanuman, snake for shiva and vishnu, cows,
      In Egypt cats.


  2. I have a few non-fiction natural history books, mostly reference works, but a few descriptive ones (including one by Robert Macfarlane, who I follow on Twitter but which I’ve yet to read).

    Apart from a recent read about Shakespeare’s flowers the last nature book I remember reading is a book about the crows and other corvids of Norfolk, which I found fascinating. I ought to read more of this kind of writing, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too–somehow fiction keeps one engaged so much that even excellent non-fiction reads keep piling up. And lately its been even worse for me since I’ve more or less only been rereading and not a single ‘new’ book on my pile has been touched.

      Even Enid Blyton has some rather good nature ones. I have her animal book (almost in pieces now)–she also has some bird books, and lovely country walk writings as part of short story collections, each describing a walk in the countryside in different seasons.

      Liked by 1 person

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