Collins New Naturalist

Find out more about the NHSN’s complete set of the New Naturalist series in this latest blog.

One of the jewels in the crown of the NHSN collection in the Great North Museum: Hancock Library is the complete set of the Collins New Naturalist series. This is comprised of 145 volumes that provide a comprehensive overview of the natural world of the United Kingdom, written by leading experts their fields. The collection is not only richly informative but is also visually striking as each volume boasts a beautiful dust jacket that graphically encapsulates the subject matter of the book.

The stated aim of the series at the outset of the project was “to interest the general reader in the wildlife of Britain by recapturing the inquiring spirit of the old naturalists.” This highly regarded collection commenced publication in 1945 when the first title in the series was E. B. Ford’s “Butterflies”. The most recent publication in the series, number 146, is “Solitary Bees” by Ted Benton and Nick Owens which has just been published and will be added to the library’s collection.

The NHSN is very unusual in holding such a splendid collection as the complete set of the Collins New Naturalist Series, which can be used on a reference basis by any user of the library. Many of the titles are also available in the NHSN library’s lending collection and can be borrowed by NHSN members. These include publications by noted local naturalists such as Angus Lunn whose landmark publication “Northumberland with Alston Moor” was published in 2004 and is number 95 in the series and John C Coulson’s “Gulls” which is number 139.

As mentioned earlier one of the most appealing attributes of the series is its use of leading artists of the natural world to produce attractive and arresting dust jackets for the books in the series. This approach has been in place since the first publication was produced and over the years has involved a number of noted contributors.  Perhaps the most famous of these is Robert Gillmor. His distinctive artwork has decorated the book sleeves from 1985 until 2021, encompassing over seventy titles. Sadly, Gillmor died in 2022, and his illustrator’s mantle has now been taken over by Robert Greenhalf. There are a number of books in the NHSN library collection about Gillmor and his illustrations that can be borrowed by NHSN members.

So, if you visit the Great North Museum: Hancock Library, please take the time to look at the Collins New Naturalist Series, and appreciate for yourself the magnitude of this wonderful collection and its impressive visual impact.

Ian Bower
Great North Museum: Hancock Library Volunteer