Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Eric Ravilious: Gilbert White of Selborne

Few British books are as well-loved as Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne. As a teacher in the mid-1920s Ravilious had urged his students to read it, and he was delighted by this commission. The title page probably shows White and Thomas Pennant, otherwise the illustrations are all carefully rooted in the text. Below we see a boy stealing a honey-buzzard egg from ‘a tall slender beech’ and ‘considerable falls of snow, which lay deep and uniform on the ground without any drifting, wrapping up the more humble vegetation in perfect security’. The illustration above accompanies the words, ‘A good ornithologist should be able to distinguish birds by their air as well as by their colours and shape; on the ground as well as on the wing, and in the bush as well as in the hand.’ It shows, particularly in the barn owl depicted against the stars, how deeply Ravilious absorbed the vision of his great forerunner, Thomas Bewick.

This is an edited extract from 'Ravilious: Wood Engravings', which will be published by The Mainstone Press at the beginning of November. The book will be launched on November 7th at Pallant House Gallery, where I will give an illustrated talk on Rav's fascinating career as a wood engraver...


  1. So much Ravilious 'stuff' so sublime in sensibility of sensitive expression and creation.

  2. The publisher of the original illustrated text (2 vols.) was the Nonesuch Press. I suppose sets in decent condition sell for about £800.00p