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Special Collections & University Archives

Cultural Landscapes: Gilbert White and The Natural History of Selborne The Bicentennial Exhibit Revisited

An exhibition celebrating the work of British naturalist and writer Gilbert White (1702-1793) was on view from February 4 through April 8, 2001 in the Peterson Gallery, Cecil H. Green Library. The exhibition, Cultural Landscapes: Gilbert White and The Natural History of Selborne / The Bicentennial Exhibit Revisited, showcased White's eminent book, one of the most published books in the English language and regarded by many as an important predecessor to the popular natural history book. The exhibition also featured photographs, maps, and an eclectic mix of rare published works on topics that relate to natural history, including ornithology, botany, landscape, theology, and travel.

Originally opening on October 15, 1989, to commemorate the bicentennial of the book's publication, the exhibition was forced to close two days later after the library suffered damages from the Loma Prieta earthquake. With the current reprise, viewers will have a second opportunity to enjoy White's oeuvre and the works of his 17th and 18th century colleagues.

White's book, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, was first published in London in 1789, and is one of the most frequently reprinted books in the history of British publishing. It is described in a 1988 edition edited by Richard Mabey as a work that " . . . retains its power to delight the reader with its account of daily life in a Hampshire village and the plants and creatures in its neighbouring woods and fields. It is an unequalled hymn of praise to the tiny and trifling details of natural life, the 'minute particulars' of nature like the singing of crickets, the subtleties of echoes, and the way flycatchers cool their young in summer by fanning their wings above the nest."the exhibit's highlights were copies of the first, 1789 edition of the work, along with copies of the various editions of the book published after its debut-a testament to the book's continuing value to naturalists, botanists, animal lovers, and other devotees of nature. Other highlights of the exhibition included works by Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf, W. H. Auden, and Sir Isaac Newton.

A catalog/checklist of the exhibition, with accompanying essays by W. B. Carnochan, Professor Emeritus at the English Department of Stanford University, and Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook, is available for purchase at the price of $5 plus tax and shipping. To obtain copies, please visit the Special Collections publications web site or via email at speccollpubs@stanford.edu.