A Dictionary of Birds. Edited by Bruce Campbell and Elizabeth Lack. T. & A. D. Poyser, Calton, 1985. 670 pages; over 500 black-and-white plates, line-drawings and diagrams. £39.00.  The majority of books that one is asked to review one sits down and reads, with more or less enjoyment, from cover to cover. With this book, though, such an approach is an obvious impossibility, so I have to say, at the outset, that I have not read all the million plus words that it contains and it is entirely possible that, apart from the editors, their helpers, and the publisher, no-one has, and no-one will. So how does one review such a work? In my case, by having it by my desk for some weeks, consulting it as often as I could, getting side-tracked frequently into reading far more than I intended, and by a certain amount of random dipping, as well as checking on topics in which I feel I have a certain expertise. Comparisons with its predecessor, Sir Landsborough Thomson's prestigious New Dictionary of Birds (1964), are inevitable, though I do recognise that many of those reading this review will not own that work; but, equally, those that do will be wondering whether they should also own this one. My answer to the latter has to be an unqualified yes. Thank Sir Landsborough for his long and faithful service as an indispensable reference work, push his tome firmly to one side on your shelves, and purchase this magnificent Dictionary instead. It has the same qualities of all-embracing authoritativeness, an outstanding list of contributors, and that sense of feeling that if it is not to be found within these pages then it somehow cannot be worth knowing. Add to this the incorporation of so much new material that it was thought necessary to produce another 'Dictionary' after only 21 years, compared with the gap of 68 years between the New Dictionary and its predecessor, Alfred Newton's Dictionary of Birds, and, apart from wondering what the gap will be next time around, here is the book that everyone must have. 

Volume: 
Issue 9
Start Page: 
467
Authors: 
Campbell, B
Pennington, M
Display Image: 

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