Review of ALL ABOUT BIRDS: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology

By Valérie Chansigaud

I found the following quotation on the copyright page of this book:

We do not completely know a science until we understand its history--Auguste Comte

So if you are a birding enthusiast and would like to advance your knowledge of the history of ornithology, this book from Princeton University Press is the one for you to have in your library. It is exceptionally well structured for learning about the specific things that interest you, and has an abundance of wonderful illustrations that will promote your enjoyment of this book. Quite frankly, you cannot Google the text of a print edition book, and as such, in our "time challenged" world, having a structure that allows for easy access to information is indispensable. I will describe this utility in the text that follows.

We begin with the Table of Contents. Already you can see some of the wonderful illustrations that proliferate in this book. The book is divided up into a chronological timeline with "eras" in the history of ornithology as the demarcation points.

One heading that interests me immediately is: The 18th Century - The birth of ornithology. Let me see what I can quickly learn about this era.

I go to page 57 and find this:

The text is too small in this image to read, but, for illustrative purposes, I will tell you the opening two sentences:

The 18th century is often portrayed as an era in which classification was passionately promoted, which was particularly true in ornithology. Three characters dominated the discipline in this period.

The book goes on to talk about Linnaeus, Brisson, and Buffon as the "three characters who dominated the discipline". Then I look to the bottom of the page and see the heading Summary. This part of the page dissects the 18th century chapter into sections, with a brief descriptive line. One that interests me is at the bottom:

The birth of American ornithology: William Bartram...............................94

So I go to page 94 and this is what I find:

You can see the beginning of this section is clearly marked in bold. I learn about a person I had not heard of before: William Bartram. The text says:

William Bartram (1739-1823) was one of the first American naturalists. The text goes on to say that, late in life, Bartram met Alexander Wilson and introduced him to ornithology. I knew of Alexander Wilson, and thought of him as one of the early ornithologists. Turns out he had a predecessor.

The whole book is structured like this. This example illustrates using this book to find information that is of interest to you in your quest to know more about birds.

The book concludes with an interesting feature: a graphical timeline.

Here we can see a graphical depiction of a portion of the 18th century that we just examined. This page mentions Linnaeus, Brisson, and Buffon, the three characters who dominated this era.

In summary, the book presents, in a well structured, utililitarian manner, a chronological timeline of the key players in the history of the science of ornithology. It can picked up and easily used to find information that interests you about this topic.


Some other books from Princeton University Press which may interest you:

By Henry D. Thoreau and Jeffrey S. Cramer (Editor)

By Peter Goodfellow

By Mike Unwin

By Jeffrey V. Wells

By David Attenborough

By Christopher Perrins (Editor)

By James Ferguson-Lees and David A. Christie

By Don Taylor and Stephen Message

By Joseph M. Forshaw


Paradise Whydah

Scarlet Tanager

Nonpareil Bunting


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