Scottish Bird News - Nº29, 1993

Scottish Bird News
Nº29, 1993

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott and J. Sargatal, eds. 1992.
Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1 [Ostrich to Ducks].
Edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and Jordi Sargatal;

Lynx Edicions 1992; 696 pp, 64 colour plates, 382 colour photographs, 568 distribution maps, over 6,000 bibliographical references. £95.

When I first heard that an unknown Spanish publisher was embarking on this mammoth publication, encompassing every avian species in the world, I admit I was sceptical. Then the pre-publication brochure appeared and I became enthusiastic though the price still deterred me, considering that this was but the first of ten volumes. However, now that the first volume has reached fruition, I can only say how wrong I was not to have jumped at the pre-publication special offer.

The first volume is truly magnificent. Lynx Edicions was set up specifically to produce this series. Every aspect of publication seems to have been carefully planned from the outset. The layout of the book is modern, visually attractive and exudes quality. Every species is clinically illustrated in its most distinctive adult plumage. Highly variant subspecies are also shown. Care has been taken with the scale of accompanying illustrations throughout the book. In addition, a selection of high quality photographs are scattered through the text of each family. These depict aspects of biology or ecology discussed in the text and give reinforcement. They are not there purely as an attractive padding to the book. Considering the superb quality of the shots, many of little known species, this is a remarkable achievement.

Obviously, maps for every species depicted in such a small scale yet encircling the whole world, can not hope to be perfect but they are remarkably accurate. They do not rely on simply regurgitating previous maps from other books but have been carefully modified with the update of new information. The vast bibliographical source list at the rear is a testimony for the care and patience that has gone into this work.

Hopefully, the team will all live to see the completion of this testament. It is an undertaking that most ornithological writers are envious of, yet lack the courage to attempt. Despite the cost, this is a book for the private collection and not as one might suppose only useful to the research student. I await with eagerness the birth of tome number two.

Bruce C.Forrester.