WHITE, Gilbert (1720-1793). The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne & A Garden Kalendar, Edited by R. Bowdler Sharpe ... Illustrations by J.G. Keulemans, Herbert Railton, & Edmund J. Sullivan. London: S.T. Freemantle in Piccadilly, 1900
2 volumes. 4to., (10 x 7 4/8 inches). Half-titles, title-pages printed in red and black. Engraved frontispieces and illustrated throughout. Original publisher's bevelled vellum with arms embossed on each front cover, and spines lettered in red (a little rubbed).
First published in 1789, and never out of print since. Limited edition, number 7 of 150 copies for sale, signed by Bowdler Sharpe and each of the artists. An attractive edition of White's magnum opus. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne had its origins in White's correspondence with Daines Barrington and Thomas Pennant, in which they discussed their observations and theories about local flora, fauna and wildlife. White believed in studying living birds and animals in their natural habitat which was an unusual approach at that time, as most naturalists preferred to carry out detailed examinations of dead specimens in the comfort of their studies.
"...[T]he first book to link the worlds of nature and the village, is Gilbert White's 'The Natural History of Selborne.' This deceptively simple and unpretentious account of natural comings and goings in an eighteenth-century Hampshire parish has come to be regarded as one of the most perfectly realized celebrations of nature in the English language. The American writer J. R. Lowell once described it as 'the journal of Adam in Paradise.' This was extravagant even by the generous standards of the tributes heaped upon this book, yet Lowell had succeeded in catching something essential about both the man and his writing. Selborne, the real English village that is the setting for the book, may fall a mite short as a model for paradise; but the dramas of courtship, birth, survival and migration that are played out in its woods and fields, have, as recounted by White, something almost sacramental about them. Although he lived at a time when the rule of reason and the supremacy of man were accepted almost as gospel, White contrived to portray the daily business of lesser creatures as a source not just of interest, but of delight and inspiration. To that extent the book is a glimpse of a place of sanctuary" (Richard Mabey, "Gilbert White: A Biography of the Author of 'The Natural History of Selborne'").
Including illustrations by Keulemans, who began his career as a taxidermist providing stuffed birds to the State Museum of Natural History at Leiden. The director of that museum encouraged Keulemans to pursue his love of natural history, where he obtained a scientific appointment after an expedition to West Africa in 1865 and 1866. His accomplishments in illustration came to the notice of Richard Bowdler Sharpe, later a director of the British Museum, who encouraged him to move to England. Keulemans quickly achieved wide recognition and established himself as the most popular bird artist of the late Victorian period. He regularly provided illustrations for "The Ibis" and "The Proceedings of the Zoological Society". He illustrated many important bird books as well as those by Dresser, including Buller's "A History of the Birds of New Zealand" (1873), Shelley's "Monograph of the Sun-Birds" (1876-1880), William Vincent Legge's "Birds of Ceylon" (1880), Daniel Giraud Elliot's "Monograph of the Hornbills" (1887-1892), Richard Bowdler Sharpe's "Monograph on Kingfishers" (1868-1871), Henry Seebohm's "Monograph on Thrushes" (1902), and Osbert Salvin's "Biologia Centrali-Americana" (1879-1904).