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All about Birds: A Short Illustrated History of Ornithology [Hardcover]

Valérie Chansigaud

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Book Description

March 21 2010

Colorful, musical, graceful, easily observed--birds have always fascinated amateur and professional naturalists alike. This richly illustrated book tells the fascinating story of ornithology from ancient times to the present. Filled throughout with paintings, drawings, photographs, and diagrams, many of them in brilliant color, All about Birds is a fast-paced chronological account of the personalities and milestones that have shaped this most popular of sciences--from Aristotle, Audubon, and Darwin to Peterson and Sibley. These key figures and events are also documented in a unique twenty-page illustrated color timeline at the end of the book. Brief individual chapters cover antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. With its beautiful design and illustrations, and its concise and informative text, this lively book will delight anyone who loves birds.

  • A clear and concise chronological account, from antiquity to the present
  • Richly illustrated throughout with some 250 images, many of them in color
  • Unique 20-page illustrated color timeline documents key figures and events

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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: 22.6 x 16 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #768,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"What a treat! In a concise, beautifully illustrated 239 pages, Valerie Chansigaud offers a history lesson on the study of birds. We meet Aristotle, Audubon, Darwin, and many other ornithologists, artists, and photographer who devoted their lives to understanding birds."--Birder's World

"Anyone who is more than casually interested in birds will heartily welcome the publication of All About Birds. . . . Following a timeline (which is outlined in the back of the book) Chansigaud provides entries about all of the major contributors to bird science. Fully half the volume is devoted to the 19th century during which ornithology came into full flower. The book is richly illustrated, very accessible, and has a good bibliography."--Wayne Mones, Audubon

"Beautifully illustrated. . . . If you want a basic primer on who was studying birds in former ages, this is a good place to start."--Mark Cocker, Birding

"Well illustrated often with period bird art. . . . [A] good introduction to the history of ornithology."--Ian Paulsen, Birdbooker Report

"For the serious birder it is a very enjoyable read for those rainy days when getting out into the field isn't an option. It reads easily and makes very frequent use of period illustrations and photographs to give us a real taste of the evolution of man's understanding of birds. From the days when the preferred tool of devoted birders like John James Audubon was a hunting rifle to the advent of modern bird photography, Chansigaud's All About Birds is an eye-opener and a page turner."--Brad Sylvester, Manchester Bird Watching Examiner

"A wonderful, easy to follow history of ornithology. . . . Cover to cover, All About Birds is loaded with illustrations, photographs, and diagrams of the people, birds, and events that have advanced ornithology and led to modern day birding."--Birdfreak.com

"Chansigaud, an environmental scientist, provides a concise history of the study of birds. . . . This carefully written, scholarly work should be valuable to academic libraries that support studies of ornithology, vertebrate biology, and the history of science."--Choice

"This book provides useful context to what we know about birds today and why it matters. It is enhanced not only by an index, but also an illustrated timeline and a bibliography for further study. If you're interested in the history of natural history, this book would be a worthwhile purchase."--Tom Palmer, Lakeland Ledger

"This is an excellent book for any birder or bird lover who's curious about how human knowledge and interest in birds has evolved. Starting Aristotle and surveying European and American bird observers, this book traverses the centuries smoothly and clearly. It brings bird knowledge, now formally dubbed ornithology, up to the very recent past."--Harry Fuller, Towheeblog

"A fast-paced chronological account of the personalities and milestones that have shaped this most popular of sciences."--ISLE

"Anyone lacking encyclopedic knowledge of bird artists will learn something new in every section of this book. Collectively, their remarkable images of birds not only brighten All About Birds but awaken the reader, whose aesthetic engagement with birds will be at or near the height of experience by this reading. . . . This book, no doubt, will reinforce la passion in those who already know something of the field and will instill it in all for whom ornithology awaits as revelation."--Shepard Krech III, BioScience

From the Inside Flap

"This is the deepest and most thorough history of ornithology that I have seen. The mixture of history, biographical sketches, period illustrations, and science give it a broad appeal, and the writing is quite engaging. An important feature of the book is its coverage of European ornithology, which nicely complements books on the history of American ornithology and birding. The book's timeline is especially valuable."--Frank Gill, former president of the American Ornithologist's Union

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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More about birdwatchers March 20 2010
By Harry Eagar - Published on Amazon.com
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
5.0 out of 5 stars An Illustrated History of Ornithology March 22 2014
By Brian H. Nordstrom - Published on Amazon.com
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.
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial and poorly documented Jan. 6 2014
By A. E. Wright - Published on Amazon.com
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.

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