Gilbert White’s copy of John Ray’s Synopsis Methodica Avium & Piscium and the construction of the Natural History of Selborne

21 Mar 2018

When compiling his seminal work, The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789), Gilbert White relied on a number of natural history books in order to manage and accumulate information. One of White’s most important books was his copy of John Ray’s Synopsis Methodica Avium & Piscium, a work frequently mentioned in Selborne. White’s annotated copy of this work, now in the Whipple Library, Cambridge, provides a new insight into his working practices and methods of observing and recording the natural world, the annotations from which have been transcribed and added in the form of an appendix to the end of this article. White’s copy of Ray’s Synopsis was essential for assembling information for the letters which formed one of the most successful and influential works of eighteenth-century natural history.