Books about History

Newton A (1893–96). A Dictionary of Birds. A and C Black: London. The Introduction (pp. 1–124) to this encyclopedia is a comprehensive, chronological, and scholarly survey of the history of ornithology to the end of the nineteenth century; includes much information on the history of systematics and regional avifaunas.

Coues E (1894). Key to North American Birds (4th edition). Estes and Lauriat: Boston.  Pages xi–xxix are a historical overview of predominantly North American ornithology to the end of the nineteenth century.

Mullens WH, Swann HK (1917). A Bibliography of British Ornithology from the Earliest Times to the End of 1912. Macmillan: London.  As its name implies, the focus is on British ornithologists; excellent set of mini–biographies (but not a history).

Gurney JH (1921; reprinted 1972). Early Annals of Ornithology. Witherby: London. A selective but scholarly account, focused on Britain; chronological by century to the end of the 1800s; readily available in secondhand shops.

Chapman FM, Palmer TS (eds) (1933) Fifty Years’ Progress of American Ornithology 1883–1933. American Ornithologists’ Union: Lancaster, PA. Covers fourteen ornithological topics by various authors; introductory and concluding information relating to the AOU.

Stresemann E (1951). Die Entwicklung der Ornithologie. Von Aristoteles bis zur Gegenwart. F. W. Peters: Berlin. [translated into English as Stresemann, E. (1975) Ornithology from Aristotle to the Present. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA]. A scholarly account of ornithology written in the late 1940s; in 1975 translated into English by H. J. and C. Epstein with a final chapter (“Materials for a History of American Ornithology”) by Ernst Mayr; an excellent source of information on ornithologists to the mid–1900s.

Farber PL (1982). The Emergence of Ornithology as a Scientific Discipline: 1760–1850. Reidel: Dordrecht [re–issued as Farber, P. L. (1997) Discovering Birds: The Emergence of Ornithology as a Scientific Discipline: 1760–1850. Johns Hopkins Univ Press: Baltimore]. Focuses on the towering figures of Buffon and Brisson during this period.

Davies WE, Jackson JA (1995). Contributions to the History of North American Ornithology. Nuttall Ornithological Club Memoir 12; Davies WE, Jackson JA (2000) Contributions to the History of North American Ornithology. Nuttall Ornithological Club Memoir 13.  Edited volumes comprising short chapters by a wide range of authors on diverse topics, mostly rather specific, such as “ornithology in the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Voous K (1995). In de Ban Van Vogels: Ornithologisch Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. Uitgeverij Scheffers: Utrecht. Ornithology in the Netherlands in the twentieth century; biographies of ornithologists born before 1950.

Barrow MVJ (1998). A Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ. A detailed, readable account; includes much on the formation of North American ornithological societies and the relationship between professional and amateur ornithologists; mainly focused on mid–1800s to 1930s, and the professionalization of ornithology.

Battalio JT (1998). The Rhetoric of Science in the Evolution of American Ornithological Discourse. Ablex Pub.: Stamford, CT. A unique analysis of the structure of language, arguments, images, and graphical displays in The Auk from 1884 to 1990.

Robin L (2001). The Flight of the Emu: A Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology. Melbourne University Press: Melbourne.  Focuses on the Royal Australian Ornithological Society (RAOU) from 1901 to 2001; chapters are thematic and organized chronologically; spans bird watching and scientific ornithology; well illustrated.

Walters M (2003). A Concise History of Ornithology. Helm: London. Based largely on Stresemann (1975); formulaic, chronological structure with detailed information on various classification systems; final chapter by J. Coulson on twentieth–century ornithology added at publisher’s request. <Amazon>

Bircham P (2007). The History of Ornithology. Collins: London. Focused mainly on British ornithology; on a wide range of disparate topics, attractively illustrated and produced. <Amazon>

Chansigaud V (2007). Histoire de L’Ornithologie. Delachaux & Niestle: Paris. [translated into English as Chansigaud V (2009) The History of Ornithology. New Holland: London]. A chronological account of the entire history of ornithology; richly illustrated, with some information on French ornithologists; contains a useful, illustrated timeline. <Amazon>

Birkhead TR (2008). The Wisdom of Birds. Bloomsbury: London. Structured by topic, from fertilization to development, maturation, territory acquisition, migration and longevity; from Aristotle to the twentieth century; beautifully illustrated with historically important paintings of birds by various artists. <Amazon>

Pittie A (2010). Birds in Books: Three Hundred Years of South Asian Ornithology—-A Bibliography. Permanent Black: India. A comprehensive, annotated listing of about 1,700 books that contain information about the birds of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet; with a brief overview of the history of ornithology in the region since 1700 and short biographies of about 200 prominent ornithologists whose books are included in the annotated list. <Amazon>

Birkhead TR, Wimpenny J, Montgomerie B (2014). Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin. Princeton Univ Press: Princeton, NJ. Structured by topic, from dinosaurs to conservation; from Darwin to the early twenty-first century; illustrated with historically relevant photographs, timelines and paintings of birds by some leading twentieth century bird artists. <Amazon>