Friday, April 29, 2011

A review of my book by Carol Inskipp, in The Auk

Birds in Books: Three Hundred Years of South Asian Ornithology—A Bibliography.—Aasheesh Pittie. 2010. Permanent Black, Ranikhet, India. xxi + 845 pp. ISBN 81-7824-294-X. Rs 795. Distributed by Orient Blackswan Private Ltd. (www.orientblackswan. com).

Published in The Auk: 128 (2): 433–434.

This volume is an outstanding work of meticulous research documenting for the first time the ornithology of South Asia and nearby political areas: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. The region encompasses both Oriental and Palaearctic realms.
            The published literature on ornithology in the region is vast, spanning almost three centuries and recording over 1,200 species of birds. Aasheesh Pittie points out that as early as 1713–1750, about 15 books relating to South Asian ornithology had been published; this number had soared to over 1,700 by the end of 2009!
            In this bibliography, a comprehensive list of books that contain information on the birds of South Asia is provided. Scholarly, popular, as well as relatively obscure texts, are included to present a complete as possible picture of ornithological publications on South Asia. Taxonomic texts dealing with the classification and nomenclature of birds, travelogues, picture books, field guides, works published as monographs within journals, bibliographies, biographies, autobiographies, country handbooks, regional avi-faunas, multi-volume ornithological works, art folios, catalogues of museum collections, and simple checklists are all included.
                  The books are mainly in English, except for certain period literature that is in German, French, Latin, etc. A few works in Indian languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Malaylam, etc) are also included, though the author states that these may not comprise a complete representation of existing work in regional languages.
                  The general arrangement of the works is alphabetical by author and chronological by year, under author.
                  Three indices are provided, facilitating easy access to the entries. The first is a general index of places, subjects, and taxa; the second, an index of new names proposed by authors; and the third an index of co-authors and or co-editors.
                  Twenty-one pages of introduction detail a fascinating chronology of books published on South Asian ornithology and is complemented by an interesting timeline of books from 1713 to 2009 listing the dates of key works.
                  This bibliography provides a window on a massive bank of scientific and popular knowledge that is invaluable to contemporary ornithologists, both amateur and professional. It is a landmark publication of South Asian ornithology and belongs in all university and museum libraries and in those of anyone with a keen interest in birds in the region.

Carol Inskipp, 1 Herneside, Welney, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE14 9SB, United Kingdom; e-mail:

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