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All about Birds: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology Hardcover – Mar 21 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Ill edition (March 21 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691145199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691145198
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.6 x 22.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #704,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
More about birdwatchers March 20 2010
By Harry Eagar - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book would more accurately be titled "All about Birdwatchers," as it is primarily a list of notable researchers, with a brief account of their area of activity, collections and publications. It reads like a whole lot of encyclopedia entries strung together.

In design, it looks like a coffee table book but it is only quarto size. Since the text is unexciting, the illustrations constitute most of the interest in the book. The small format works against the appeal of the volume. Most of the bird illustrations are postcard size, and the illustrations of the ornitolologists and of the title pages of their books are postage stamp size.

The translation from Valerie Chansigaud's original French is sometimes awkward, but a redeeming value in reading a Eurocentric history of ornithology is that Chansigaud pays far more attention to continental researchers, collections and publications than we typically get in English-oriented surveys.

The dry text is enlivened by occasional -- but too rare -- factoids. An otherwise minor traveler, Pierre Sonnerat, published a book on the birds of New Guinea in 1776. Chansigaud quotes his stunning observation that parrots constituted perhaps the most varied genus of birds because each of the islands of rhe Philippines "is home to one or several species of this genus, that are their own, and that one does not find on the other islands of the same archipelago, however small the distance between them may be."

But it was too early in the modern study of birds for the significance of biogeography to penetrate -- Linneaus's book on species was still fresh and by no means widely accepted -- and Sonnerat was incurious about theory, or otherwise we might all remember Sonnerat's parrots instead of Darwin's finches.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Illustrated History of Ornithology March 22 2014
By Brian H. Nordstrom - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is definitely well-illustrated, with both color and black-and-white illustrations, along with portraits of famous ornithologists. The main text itself is 210 pages long. What follows the text is a rather fascinating illustratied timeline of ornithology covering the Middle Ages, the Remaissance, and the 17th, 18thy, 19th, and 20th centuries. The book was written in 2010, so its information is current. I found it a good read and recommend it.
Superficial and poorly documented Jan. 6 2014
By A. E. Wright - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have not seen Chansigaud's original French text, but if this occasionally hesitant translation is a fair representative of its source, this is a profoundly disappointing work. The book develops no argument, relying instead on hackneyed historiographic schemes that call, for example, the Middle Ages "a long winter for science." The entries devoted to ornithologists or to natural history expeditions are not connected by any narrative thread, instead reading like the clumsy abridgments of poor wikipedia articles. The author is careless in identifying her sources, making it very difficult to confirm novel or surprising assertions; there are enough factual errors and misleading implications here to make it worth checking everything before citing it as true. The illustrations, so often an important, or at least a pleasing, element in histories of ornithology, are here so small as to be useless. The concluding "timeline" is poorly designed and adds nothing to the text, which is, at least, furnished with a fairly good index.