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This new and improved edition of Letters from Alabama offers a valuable window into pioneer Alabama and the landscape and life-forms encountered by early settlers of the state.
Philip Henry Gosse (1810–1888), a British naturalist, left home at age seventeen and made his way to Alabama in 1838. He was employed by Judge Reuben Saffold and other planters near Pleasant Hill in Dallas County as a teacher for about a dozen of their children, but his principal interest was natural history. Letters from Alabama is a personalized record of Gosse’s perceptive observations during his eight-month residence in this small antebellum community. The work addresses a Victorian readership, including entomologists, who Gosse believed were relatively uninformed about the novelty and beauty of this “hilly region of the State of Alabama.” Written in an engaging literary style and organized as a series of epistolary discussions, the book is unparalleled in its detailed evocations of the natural history and cultural conditions of frontier Alabama. By the time Letters from Alabama appeared in 1859, Gosse’s scientific publications and fine illustrations had led to his being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.
Edited by Gary R. Mullen and Taylor D. Littleton, this authoritative edition features thirty grayscale lithographs shot directly from the 1859 edition, reset type for easier reading, a new introduction and index by the two foremost scholars of Gosse in Alabama, a new appendix that provides modern scientific and common names for the plant and animal species described by Gosse, and a four-color cover featuring one of the plates from Gosse’s Entomologia Alabamensis.