Collins New Naturalist series is the longest-running and arguably the most influential natural history series in the world with over 100 volumes published in over 60 years. Key contributors include Fraser Darling, Max Nicholson, Sir Alistair Hardy, W.G.Hoskins, Miriam Rothschild, Richard Fitter, Guy Mountfort and Niko Tinbergen making them a veritable Encylopaedia Britannica of British natural history in its broadest sense.
The New Naturalist books are a series published by Collins in the United Kingdom, on a variety of natural history topics relevant to the British Isles. The aim of the series at the start was: “To interest the general reader in the wild life of Britain by recapturing the inquiring spirit of the old naturalists.” In the editors’ preface to a 1952 monograph they write “An object of the New Naturalist series is the recognition of the many-sidedness of British natural history, and the encouragement of unusual and original developments of its forgotten or neglected facets.”
The first to appear was E.B. Ford’s Butterflies in 1945. The authors of this series are usually eminent experts, often professional scientists. This gives the series authority, and many are or have been authoritative introductory textbooks on a subject for some years. The books are written in scientific style, but are intended to be readable by the non-specialist, and are an early example of popular science in the media. The books of the series have had considerable influence on many students who later became professional biologists, such as W.D. Hamilton and Mike Majerus. The latter was inspired by Ford’s Butterflies and Moths and later added two of his own volumes to the series.
A parallel series of Monographs was also published, but there have been no additions since 1971. Volume 82 of the main series, The New Naturalists, described the series to date, with author biographies and a guide to collecting the books.
The original Editorial Board consisted of Julian Huxley, James Fisher, Dudley Stamp, John Gilmour and Eric Hosking. Many of the highly characteristic dust jacket illustrations are by Clifford and Rosemary Ellis; the latest ones are by Robert Gillmor.
Being a numbered series, with a very low print run for some volumes, they are highly collectable. Second-hand copies of the rarer volumes, in very good condition, can command high prices. In 2006, the 100th volume was produced. The series is on-going.