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Hertfordshire Natural History Society

We are pleased to announce that the Hertfordshire Natural History Society collection, which the Society deposited at University College London in 1935 and which comprises some 1300 items, has now been added to Explore.

This collection, published mostly in English and with a publication date range of 1671 to 1993 (though mostly within the 19th century) reflects the widest definition of 'natural history'. It includes not only the study and observation of living plants and animals, their ecosystems, habitats and distribution, but also a study of all things in the natural world including geology, meteorology and paleontology. Coverage ranges from the general (plants and animal classification and nomenclature, elementary meteorology), to the national (history of British butterflies, grasses in Scotland) and local (Gilbert White's Natural history of Selborne, flora of Herefordshire). In addition the collection contains the records of field clubs, whose areas of interest extend to archeology and local history. Most of the material is concerned with the natural history of the British Isles, although there are some works, particularly marine biology and ecology, which go further afield.

Much of the collection, particularly the serials, consists of the records of local natural history societies - largely comprised of amateur naturalists - from the 17th century to the present day, and includes painstakingly observed and listed inventories of local flora and fauna, as well as local meteorological data. This makes them a valuable record of the distribution and changing patterns of plants, animals and local climate in the UK.

Parts of the collection also provide a visual feast. For much of the early period of the existence of these societies the camera didn't exist, so the skill of illustration was extremely important in establishing what these fauna and flora looked like for members who needed to be able to recognise what they were looking for and do an accurate count. The resulting woodcuts, copper plates and watercolours are extremely impressive, both as records of living wildlife, and as works of art in their own right.