The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

[The name of John Ray holds a pre-eminent place amongst the naturalists of Great Britain.  He was the first in this country who attempted a classification of the vegetable kingdom, and his system possessed many important and valuable characteristics.  Ray was the son of a blacksmith at Black Notley, near Braintree, in Essex, where he was born, in 1627.  The letter here printed sufficiently indicates his natural shrewdness and intelligence.  One of his works here referred to is entitled “Three Physico-Theological Discourses concerning Chaos, the Deluge, and the Dissolution of the World,” 1692.  There is a well-written memoir of Ray in the “Penny CyclopEedia,” Aubrey’s portrait, by the celebrated miniature-painter Samuel Cooper, alluded to above, is not now extant; but another portrait of him by Faithorne is preserved in the Ashmolean Museum, and has been several times engraved.  A print from the latter drawing accompanied the “Memoirs of Aubrey,” published by the Wiltshire Topographical Society.  Cooper died in 1672, and was buried in the old church of St. Pancras, London.  Ray visited Italy between the years 1663 and 1666.  J. B.]


[It has been thought sufficient to print only a few brief extracts from this Introductory Chapter, which in the original is of considerable length.  Its title (derived from the Greek words {Gk:choros} and {Gk:  grapho}) is analogous to Geography.  By far the greater portion of it has no application to Wiltshire, but, on the contrary, consists of Aubrey’s notes, chiefly geological and botanical, on every part of England which he had visited; embracing many of the counties.  His observations shew him to have been a minute observer of natural appearances and phenomena, and in scientific knowledge not inferior to many of his contemporaries; but, in the present state of science, some of his remarks would be justly deemed erroneous and trivial.

It will be seen that he contends strongly for the influence of the soil and air upon the mental and intellectual faculties or “wits”, of individuals; on which point some of his remarks are curious.  Ray’s comments on this part of his subject will be found in the letter already printed (page 7).  “The temper of the earth and air”, in the opinion of Aubrey, caused the variance in “provincial pronunciation”.

The author’s theory of the formation and structure of the earth, which is here incidentally noticed, will be adverted to in the description of Chapter viii. — J. B.]

Petrified shells.-As you ride from Cricklad to Highworth, Wiltsh., you find frequently roundish stones, as big,, or bigger than one’s head, which (I thinke) they call braine stones, for on the outside they resemble the ventricles of the braine; they are petrified sea mushromes. [Fossil Madrepores ?-J.  B.]

The free-stone of Haselbury [near Box] hath, amongst severall other shells, perfect petrified scalop-shells.  The rough stone about Chippenham (especially at Cockleborough) is full of petrified cockles.  But all about the countrey between that and Tedbury, and about Malmesbury hundred, the rough stones are full of small shells like little cockles, about the bigness of a halfpenny.

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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