Zoological Illustrations, or Original Figures and Descriptions. Volume I, (Illustrated)

Zoological Illustrations, or Original Figures and Descriptions. Volume I, (Illustrated)

by William Swainson

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The execution of the Zoological drawings now published, have been to us an agreeable relaxation from severer studies; and the concise descriptions by which they are accompanied, are intended to convey, in a condensed and popular form, the partial result of more extended investigations. Species are the objects of which the whole fabric of animated nature is composed, and their respective properties must be investigated, before their natural combinations can be understood. Their delineation is therefore highly important. Figures bring before us objects which cannot always be understood by words; while if faithfully executed, they possess the same value as every period of time; for nature is unchangeable.

It is to be regretted that of late much discussion should have arisen among our own naturalists, as to the relative merits of the different modes by which they study nature. The searchers after the natural system throwing obloquy on those who investigate species,[1] while the latter contend that mankind is more interested in knowing the properties of species, than those of groups.[2] To us it appears that such discussions are unnecessary, and but ill calculated to promote that good feeling which should prevail in a division of labour. The power of embracing comprehensive views, and of detecting diversified relations, must be confined to a few, because such objects require the greatest exertion of a superior mind, yet they must ever be mainly dependant on the labours of another class of naturalists: those who analyze the properties of species, and separate with critical judgment, and nice discrimination, resemblances from affinities. But for these valuable coadjutors our acquaintance with nature would be altogether speculative: they supply, in short, by analysis, that basis upon which all true knowledge of nature must repose. Natural combinations can never be fully detected, without an acquaintance with their component parts.

The investigator of general laws, and the discriminator of species, are thus advancing the knowledge of their favourite science by different modes of study. The paths they have chosen, although essentially distinct, lead but to one common point; and as both must be trodden, it seems unnecessary to discuss which road is the most honourable.

In the classification of the subjects here comprised, we have followed no particular system: the chief object aimed at, being to point out apparent relations and affinities. To those Ornithological groups which Linneus named Genera, and which subsequent systematists have considered Families or sub-families, we have applied the designations long used by Leach, Stevens, Fleming, Vigors, &c., but in all cases where such divisions are unaccompanied by a definition, (in the following pages,) we wish it to be understood, that the name is merely applied provisionally; indicating the probable station of the individual; and that in very few instances do our own opinions on the nature of such groups, coincide with those of the different writers who have gone before us.

The splendid discovery of the circular system of Nature, has given a totally new aspect to this science; but has nevertheless been attended with an evil, no where more apparent than in Ornithology; where synthesis has completely set aside analysis, and where the rugged and laborious path of patient investigation, has been deserted for the flowery walks of Speculation and Hypothesis. The combinations thus produced, may well excite the smile of our continental neighbours, nor need we feel surprise that they look, with something like contempt, on such arrangements ""called natural"" of affinities and relations.

On the other hand the Ornithological writings of Sonnini, Le Vaillant, Wilson, and Azara, are never failing sources of information to the searcher after truth. The observations of such men, who recorded Nature as she really is, and who cared very little for the fashionable systems of the day, may be for a time neglected: but they must finally assume that importance which is ever attached to unbiassed and disinterested testimony. To this honourable list our own country can furnish other names. The habits and economy of our native birds have been accurately and patiently investigated by those lyncean naturalists, White, Montague, and Selby, while their internal structure is now engaging the attention of Mr. Yarrell, a Gentleman eminently qualified by long study, and matured reflection, for such a task.

In Conchology we have been more desirous to illustrate groups, than species; the latter will be done, on a very extensive scale, in the forthcoming work of Mess. Sowerby.

From the patient labours, and cautious deductions, of Dr. Horsfield, we expect a more perfect elucidation of the Lepidopterous Insects than has yet, perhaps, been attempted.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940148788249
Publisher: Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date: 10/31/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 5 MB

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