The Birds of Africa. Volume I. By Leslie H. Brown, Emil K. Urban and Kenneth Newman. Academic Press, London, 1982. 521 pages; 28 colour plates; 4 black-and-white plates; many line-drawings and maps. £53.40.
This is a huge book: just as heavy as but even larger than the third volume otBWP. There is only one fair way to describe it: it is a magnificent book. The attractive design, large and clear print, and lay-out designed for ease of use all enhance its all-round quality. This is the first of six volumes (there may be a seventh on the Malagasy region). Unfortunately, its publication came after the death of its major initiator, Leslie Brown; as HRH The Duke of Edinburgh says in his foreword, 'the series will be a monument to Leslie Brown'. Volumes II-IV will be edited by Emil K. Urban, Hilary Fry and Stuart Keith. The series covers all the birds recorded in Africa; a case could be made for excluding those which have occurred only within the Palearctic parts of the continent (a number of species have not been recorded south of the Sahara, for instance), thereby giving either more room for the remaining species or smaller volumes at a lower price. As it is, there are some instances of considerable detail being given on birds which are not truly African but have occurred only as vagrants, for which the researcher would surely seek his information in handbooks covering the areas where the birds are better known. This criticism could, however, be levelled at many handbooks, and I feel sure that the majority of African ornithologists would be in favour of the present treatment.