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WE commence our notices of ornithological works with the Ornithology of Francis Willughby; as he was the first Naturalist who treated the study of birds as a science, and the first who made any thing like a rational classification. His work (folio) was translated, edited, and published by his friend Ray, in 1678. Now although the classification of Willughby can by no means be considered complete, yet it was unquestionably the best that had hitherto been promulgated, and has indeed very great merit, especially when we consider that it was framed about a century and a half ago, with no other assistance than the meagre compilations of preceding authors. The system of Willughby is also without doubt the basis on which the ornithological classification of Linnæus was founded, and it is a curious fact that many of Willughby's genera, which were altered by the great Swede, are now again introduced exactly as restricted by the former author. The descriptions of the habits of birds in this work are full and generally exact; but are occasionally besprinkled with absurdities which should have been beneath his notice. The diseases of birds and their cures, and the methods of capturing and keeping the different species are also fully detailed, and a "Summary of Falconry" concludes the descriptive part of the volume. After this is given a figure (uncoloured) of each bird described, but these are wholly destitute of merit. The young Ornithologist will do well to study this work with attention, but he must sift the true from the false matter,
Synopsis Methodicum Avium, by John Ray,
We find it our duty to say that the amiable and gentle Ray, whatever he might be in Botany, had very little merit as an Ornithologist, the whole of the system, and also the names of birds used in his works, being the production of his friend Willughby; this is frankly acknowledged by Ray himself, and must therefore be true. Thus if you possess the Ornithology of Willughby, it is unnecessary to have the Synopsis of Ray. We are sorry to observe that the credit of Willughby's system, and also of his names, is generally most unjustly awarded to Ray, in works on Natural History, at the present day.
Systema Nature, by Sir Charles Linné, M.D. Fauna Suecica, by Sir Charles Linné, M.D. 8vo.
After the publication of Ray's Synopsis, no work of importance appeared until the Systema Naturæ of Linnæus. The best edition of this work is the 12th, the last which was published by the author, and which appeared in 1766. It is probable that this production has done more to advance Ornithology* than any other of a like nature, increasing the votaries of the science an hundred fold, by the advantages which the simplicity of the system held out to amateurs. This system, although confessedly artificial, is remarkably comprehensive, and the groups are generally very accurately defined. It contains one or two very flagrant errors,
When we have occasion to mention works which treat of Natural History generally, we shall of course only criticise the ornithological department.
as the classing under the same generic head the perfectly distinct genera Coccothraustes (Grosbeak), Pyrrhula (Coalhood), and Crucirostra (Crossbill), but it was of singular use at that time, and has done much to advance the science. Linnæus may be considered the father of modern Naturalists, and the student of Ornithology must be thoroughly acquainted with the Systema Nature before he proceeds to the study of more modern and abstruse classifications. We are, however, far from advising any one to adhere to the Linnæan system at the present day; that would be absurd, at the advanced state the science has now attained. The system of Linnæus is merely the basis on which all other classifications are founded. A thirteenth edition was published by Dr. Gmelin, after the death of Linnæus, and this was subsequently translated into English, by William Turton, M.D.-Fauna Suecica is also indispensable to the Ornithologist.
Voyage to the Islands of Madeira, Barbadoes, Nevis, St. Christopher's, and Jamaica, with the Natural History, &c., by Sir Hans Sloane, M.D., 2 vols. folio, 1707-1727.
Sir Hans Sloane is better known as a liberal patron of natural science, and an extensive collector, than from his writings. In the former capacity he certainly never had an equal. We have not seen his Voyage, but according to Cuvier (Règne Animal) the plates, 274 in number, are "mediocres ou mauvaises."
Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, by Mark Catesby. 1731, folio. 2 vols.
This work is of great use to the Ornithologist, on account of the accuracy of the figures-which are coloured, and two hundred in number and descriptions. A second edition appeared in 1771, edited by Edwards, the author of a well known work on birds.
Vorstellung der Vögel. Frisch. 1739-63. 2 vols. folio. Berlin.
A work on the birds of Germany, but of no use at the present day; the figures, two hundred and fifty-five in number, being very indifferent, and the descriptions equally meagre. Infinitely superior works have since appeared on the Ornithology of this country.
Natural History of Birds, by E. Albin. 3 vols. 4to. 1738. Three hundred and six coloured plates.
Of no use at the present day.
Natural History of Uncommon Birds, and Gleanings of Natural History, by Geo. Edwards. 7 vols. 4to. 1743-64.
These two works may be considered as forming one, the last being merely a continuation of the first. The birds described and figured are placed without any reference to order, and were mostly unknown species. The plates are coloured, and, though somewhat coarse, have a life and character which has perhaps not been surpassed even at the present day. The whole of the figures are drawn. and engraved—mostly from living specimens-by
the author, and the work will always be valuable to the Ornithologist.
Des Oiseaux Domestiques, par R. A. F. Reaumur. 2 vols. 12mo.
An exceedingly interesting work on tame birds, interspersed with anecdotes and experiments.
Historia Avium Prodromus, by J. T. Klein. 4to. 1750.
It is unnecessary to make particular mention of the system of Klein, as it was adopted by very few, nor is it by any means necessary for the Ornithologist to possess his Prodromus. And we may here be allowed to remark on the absurd custom of writing works on Natural History-or indeed any other subject-in Latin. When written in this learned tongue" the contents of the works must necessarily be sealed to all but a few "learned" pedants. At the time when Klein wrote, however, there may have been some excuse for this practice, as only a very few then turned their attention to the Natural Sciences, and these few were generally supposed to have had the benefit of a "sound classical education." But as this is no longer the case, there cannot now be the same excuse as there was formerly for writing works on Natural History in Latin. The modern languages should of course be taught at every school, and then we may look forward to the time when Latin and Greek, if not entirely abandoned, will at least no longer be considered indispensable to any classes of society,much less to the students of science. We will, however, postpone this discussion to a future occasion. See Analyst, Vol. III, p. 46.