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Gilbert White’s Manuscript

We’ve had a very exciting month here at Gilbert White & The Oates Collections but what with the grand opening, nature festival and everything else you might have missed one of the most exciting bits of news of all! Gilbert White’s manuscript has been digitised and is now available you to read and peruse through.


This is extremely exciting, the manuscript of the Natural History of Selborne is one of the jewels of the museum, in it you can see Gilbert White’s crossings out and amendments which give an amazing insight into how the natural History was written. But understandable we can’t just flick through it every day, but now we can!

In Guardian article that was published on the 12th May our Director Steve Green said, “We’ve got the original manuscript and it is obviously a very precious thing,” he said. “But it is in a big cupboard and you can only see two pages at a time when you come to visit. It will be much more interesting than reading one of the subsequent editions because it has got White’s crossings out and alterations, so it helps reveal something of his thought processes.


We’ve all been inspired by The Natural History of Selborne, and know that great naturalists such as Charles Darwin and David Attenborough have all been influenced by White’s great work, so we were delighted when Chris Packham agreed to promote the manuscript’s online publication by sharing with us how special it is for him personally. “I was 12 years old and I took the book home and I was immediately enchanted,” Packham recalls “I’d started to keep a diary myself in 1971 of all the natural history that I encountered – the first page is the lengths of different grass snakes that I’d caught and I still have that diary, it’s very much a personal treasure. But I loved reading White’s description and his descriptions were so vivid that I was able to rebuild this landscape so far away in time.


The online manuscript is available on our website and of course you can see the real thing by visiting us!