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A reprint of a classical work in the Cambridge Library Collection.
During his five years in the 1730s as rector of St John's parish on the Caribbean island of Nevis, William Smith collected a number of remarkable seashells, which he presented to the Woodwardian Museum of Fossils at the University of Cambridge nine years after his return to England. When the incumbent Woodwardian Professor, Charles Mason, asked Smith for 'some account' of the Nevis shells, Smith wrote him a series of eleven undated letters, published as A Natural History of Nevis, and the Rest of the English Leeward Charibee Islands in America in 1745, containing observations on the island's flora and fauna, and details relating to the neighbouring islands. Mason and Smith became friends, and the content of the letters gradually diverged from pure recollection to larger digressions on subjects as varied as cryptography, diseases common to slaves, tarantulas, and the Great Wall of China. The result is an idiosyncratic snapshot of the mind of an educated and slightly eccentric cleric in eighteenth-century England.