Gilbert White’s Manuscript

Read the Manuscript

Gilbert White’s Manuscript, a profoundly influential study of the wildlife of the south of England and one of the most published books in the English language, is now fully digitised and available to read online.

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, by the Reverend Gilbert White is a vivid and captivating illustration of the relationship between humans and the natural world. The 1789 manuscript has been one of the most well-loved books in the English language, being published in over 300 editions and reputedly the 4th most published work after The Bible, The Complete Works of Shakespeare and The Pilgrim’s Progress, it has never been out of print.

“Gilbert White’s book, more than any other, has shaped our everyday view of the relations between humans and nature.” – Richard Mabey, naturalist and Gilbert White biographer

The 339 loose leaf pages of the hugely influential original manuscript are available to read in the form of a digital ‘flipbook’ on the Museum’s Website at

The book is accompanied by the new animated video ‘The man and his manuscript’, narrated by naturalist and presenter, Chris Packham.

Considered ‘the first ecologist’, Gilbert White was a gardener who, over a series of books recording his encounters with the natural world, became a hugely influential and popular chronicler of the wildlife of Britain. His works recorded meticulously the fruit and vegetables he sowed, the crops he reaped, the weather conditions and the environment around him.

The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne is packed with White’s obserations. Made up of letters to like-minded friends in which he mused over local flora, fauna and wildlife, the book is a close study of living birds and animals in their natural habitats; this approach puts it at odds with the work of most naturalists of the time, who tended to examine dead species in detail in laboratory-type conditions.

“The Space is delighted to be supporting the digitisation of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne. The project will ensure the much admired and ever-popular manuscript, which has been so influential amongst twentieth century literary figures, is now accessible online, to be enjoyed by even more people.” – Fiona Morris, CEO and Creative Director of The Space

Read more at, watch the videos on their YouTube channel or check for updates on the Gilbert White’s House website Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Text versions of the manuscript are also available for download thanks to Project Gutenberg at