An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature

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by Oliver Goldsmith

An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature

Title page from An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Oliver Goldsmith
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Published Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey
Date 1795
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Language English
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Oliver Goldsmith (1728?-1774) was an early 17th century Irish playwright and novelist, whose exact birthplace and date are still disputed.[1] After an unsuccessful medical career, Goldsmith turned his hand to writing. His most famous works include the novel The Vicar of Wakefield published in 1773 and the play, She Stoops to Conquer, written in 1766 and first performed in 1773. Despite his literary fame and success, Goldsmith struggled financially throughout until his death.[2]

Towards the end of his life, Goldsmith became fascinated with the environment and sought to create a definitive text chronicling the extent of human knowledge of biological life on the planet.[3] "An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature was best known not only for the extensive undertaking and breadth of information about wildlife of all kinds, but also for its early distinction between the types of sciences. Early in the text Goldsmith carefully delineates the realms of general and material physics, as well as the role of nature and natural law, while speaking dismissively of a Supreme Being.[4] In a main thematic piece that stretches through all eight volumes of the work, Goldsmith, a notable naturalist, exposes serious flaws within the naturalist position—he reveals the loose boundary between the most sensitive of plants and the most stationary and unresponsive of animals and criticizes the popular notion of a well defined hierarchy in favor of a more loose continuum of sentient life.[5]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Oliver Goldsmith.

Title: An History of the Earth, and Animated Nature.

Publication Info: Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey, 1795


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in quarter-calf and marbled boards. Purchased from B&L Rootenberg Rare Books.

Find this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Hathi Trust Volume II Hathi Trust Volume III Hathi Trust Volume IV


  1. John A. Dussinger, ‘Goldsmith, Oliver (1728?–1774)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 accessed 6 Oct 2013
  2. Ibid.
  3. Dickinson College website, s.v. "Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74)," accessed October 5, 2013,
  4. Oliver Goldsmith, A History of Earth and Animated Nature (London: Printed for J. Nourse 1774).
  5. Dickinson College website, s.v. "Oliver Goldsmith (1728-74)."