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NATURE

[June 8, 1871

PART 1

on 7 UNE 15th. A A HISTORY OF BRITISH BIRDS ,

BY THE LATE

W I L L I AM Y A R R E LL, V.P.L.S.,

F. Z. S.

FOURTH EDITION, REVISED BY
ALFRED NEWTON, M. A., F. R. S.

,
Prolessor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in the University of Cambridge, F.L.S., V.P.Z.S., &c.

a

a

PROSPECTUS. The publication of the late Mr. Yarrell's "History of British Birds was begun in July 1837, and finished in May 1843: The merits of the work having been at once fully recognised, a Second Edition was called for in 1845, and then a Third, which last appeared in 1856, but a few months before its author's death. A large impression of each has been sold, and the work has been generally and deservedly regarded as the standard authority on British

Ornithology. A New Edition is now demanded, not only by the public at large, but by many who possess the other issues, and a few remarks on the mode in which it is proposed to be conducted may not be out of place.

The Second and Third Editions, with the exception of some few though not unimportant additions and alterations (to be presently mentioned more particularly), were, as a whole, mere reprints of the First, which, as has been already said, appeared some thirty years ago. Since that time, it is no exaggeration to say that the literature of the subject has been nearly doubled, while, even since the publication of the last Edition, an extraordinary increase has been made in the knowledge of our British Birds. Very many of the species respecting which little was actually known in 1856, have been traced by competent observers to their breedingquarters, and their habits ascertained and, in some instances, minutely recorded. The heiviest tisk in preparing a New Edition of Mr. YARRELL's volumes, is that of sifting among the abundance of information supplied by the authors as well as of independent works as of papers in Natural History journals, and in the publications of learned Societies, for such particulars as are most needed to give the more general reader a correct idea of the economy and attributes of the birds which do not permanently frequent any part of the United Kingdom.

Such a mass of material as has been furnished in the manner indicated, enables the ornithologist of the present day also to rectify many statements made by his predecessors. In no respect, perhaps, is this fact more manifest than in determining the geographical range of species, whether in the fullest sense of the word “British,” or only occasional visitors to our shores. It will be remembered that precision on this point was made by Mr. YARRELL a prominent feature of his work; and, when the amount of information at his disposal is taken into consideration, it must be conceded that he was therein eminently successful. The excellent example which he himself set by adding to or correcting statements bearing upon this important subject, in his successive Editions, will not be lost upon the new Editor, nor will the equally suggestive alterations in the arrangement of certain species be neglected by him. When Mr. YARRELL had satisfied himself that his original allocation of certain forms had been erroneous, he did not hesitate to correct the mistake-as, for instance, the Pratincole and the Phalaropes, placed in his First Edition among the Rails and Coots, but subsequently, with unquestionable propriety, referred to the Plovers and Sandpipers. The Editor, therefore, will not scruple to make such systematic changes as may be considered to be satisfactorily established. He is, however, desirous of stating that, in cases which may be still regarded as doubtful, he will, whatever be his own predilections, preserve the original order of Mr. YARRELL, thinking it a lesser evil to continue a possibly or even a probably erroneous arrangement, than to offer a new one which time may show to be no improvement.

The lax method adopted by older writers on British Ornithology, of admitting any chance straggler from distant lands to a place beside the real inhabitants of this country, has been in these days very generally condemned, as tending to confound all correct notions of Geographical Distribution. The Editor, however, does not think himself warranted in rejecting any of the species falling under this category which have been recognised by Mr. YARRELL, but the claims for admission of new ones will be carefelly scrutinised. And, that he may not appear capricious in his choice, the EDITOR wishes to state, that of the land birds lately recorded as having occurred in Britain, it is his intention only to include those which belong to that great zoo.geographical region of the Old World of which the British Islands form a portion.

The scientific names of the birds used by Mr. YARRELL will be retained, for the convenience of those who are accustomed to them, but it is the intention of the Editor also to prefix names in accordance, as far as possible, with the code of Rules for Zoological Nomenclature adopted by the British Association for the Advancement of Science--a code, the chief principles of which were admitted by Mr. YARRELL himself. It is hoped that, by following these rules, a more uniform practice than now exists may be ultimately reached, and even synonyms which in the case of many common species at present perplex the most scientific ornithologists, may eventually disappear.

In conclusion, the Editor has to observe, that while on his part no trustworthy source of information shall be willingly neglected, he will be glad to receive any communications likely to be of use in elucidating the “ History of British Birds."

To those who may be unacquainted with the Work, it may be well to state that the last Edition was embellished by 550 Woodcuts, engraved in the best manner, by, or under the superintendence of, the late JOHN THOMPSON, from drawings by WOLF, FUSSELL, and others, comprising figures of the birds, pictorial tailpieces and accessories to the text. That the author was assisted in his labours by many kind contributions from naturalists and sportsmen is well known.

Each number will consist of Eighty Pages, the price being 25. 6d. Part 2 will be published August 1st. The future parts will be published Monthly, and it is expected that about Twenty-five will complete the Work, then forming Three Volumes, and containing nearly 600 Illustrations.

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San Josef.
Down the Islands.

Naparima and Montserrat.
Trinidad

The Northern Mountain.
Port of Spain.

The Savanna of Aripo.
A Letter from a West Indian Cottage The Cocal.

The “ Education Question " in Trini-
Monos.

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The High Woods.
La Brea,

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