The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife

Published: 16 April 2024| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/xkz4hzchkr.2
Lee Raye


This file is the basis of The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife (Pelagic Publishing, 2023). It includes thousands of historical records of wildlife from Britain and Ireland. The records have been extracted from over 200 primary texts (mostly books) written between the year 1519 CE and the year 1772 CE. This version of the database includes a single table with over 9,000 rows. Each row provides all the locations where a single species was listed in a single source, so that for example one record lists that the Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) was recorded as present on Shetland in an early modern source called Atlas Maior, and another record labelled lists that the Gannet (Morus bassanus) was recorded as present on both Godrevy Island and Bass Rock in the Itineraries of John Ray. Identifying species and locations in older texts is complicated and where the record is uncertain, this is indicated by adding ?s in the "Present?" field. Explanation for second ed. of Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife Database. In the process of publishing the Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife, I found some additional references to primary sources. This has resulted in the addition of around 50 new sources to the database. Most of these only provide a few new records - only one (Heath's 'Natural and historical account of the islands of Scilly') meets the standard of the 'key sources' from the first edition of the Atlas, but the other sources nevertheless are useful for clarfiying the distribution of some species, especially the poetical topographies which are especially good for records of songbirds, freshwater fishes and European Hares. The primary sources added were found listed in the following secondary sources: Aubin, R.A. (1966) Topographical Poetry in XVIII-century England, New York: MLA Cox, E.G. (1949) A Reference Guide to the Literature of Travel, Seattle: University of Washington Press. Deakin, Q. (2023) 'Early Chorographical and Historical County Survey Writing in Wales, C.1550–1700' The Welsh History Review, 31(3):376-396. (Dr Deakin kindly recommended some additional primary sources via personal correspondence) Fowler, A. (1994) The Country House Poem, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Freeman, M. (2023) 'Travellers and tourists, 1700-1769' in: Early Tourists in Wales,, accessed 5th Sep 2023 Moir, E. (1964) The Discovery of Britain, London: Routledge. Finding all these records required years of work. If you are a researcher and find additional sources here, please cite this database or the parent publication (which includes in-depth analysis and historical distribution maps) - see link at bottom of page: Raye, L. (2023) The Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife, Exeter, Pelagic Publishing.


Steps to reproduce

Many of the most exciting records in this database are cited (with page numbers) and analysed in the accompanying Atlas of Early Modern Wildlife book. Other records in the database can also be traced back to their original source: The source of each record is listed in "Title of Source" field. Most sources can be viewed and searched online on Google Books, the Biodiversity Heritage Library or Early English Books Online. Some are only available to consult in person at national libraries and archives or have been re-printed in paper only books and journals. Once the source has been found, the "Name given in source" field lists the exact spelling to search for. Many online editions of early modern sources have poor OCR so a manual search may be required. Please contact me (lee.raye (at) for help locating any difficult records. If you want to write about a record you have found here, please don't forget to cite this database as well as the original source of the record in your publication.


History, Extinction, Environmental History, Biodiversity Loss, Early Modern Period, Ireland, Historical Ecology