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Henry Dresser and Victorian ornithology

Birds, books and business

By Henry A. McGhie

Henry Dresser and Victorian ornithology

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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9413-6
  • Pages: 368
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: November 2017
  • BIC Category: Mathematics & science / History of science, Birds (Ornithology), SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Zoology / Ornithology, Biography: science, technology & medicine, Humanities / Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, History, Zoology: birds (ornithology), History & Archaeology, c 1500 onwards to present day, Biography: science, technology & medicine, History of science, HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, SCIENCE / History, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Science & Technology

Description

This book explores the life of Henry Dresser (1838-1915), one of the most productive British ornithologists of the mid-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is largely based on previously unpublished archival material. Dresser travelled widely and spent time in Texas during the American Civil War. He built enormous collections of skins and eggs of birds from Europe, North America and Asia, which formed the basis of over 100 publications, including some of the finest bird books of the late nineteenth century. Dresser was a leading figure in scientific society and in the early bird conservation movement; his correspondence and diaries reveal the inner workings, motivations, personal relationships and rivalries that existed among the leading ornithologists.

Reviews

'This is a magnificent exploration of (British) Victorianornithology, which brings to life many of the key figures of the period withtheir frequently very strained relationships.'
Alan Knox, British Birds l l l , January 2018

'The title (and concept behind the title) promises exciting and entertaining reading.'
'A book with a strong central plot/thread. A look at the past with relevance to the future. Definitely worth a read.'
Karl Schulze-Hagen, Vogelwarte

'Historians and scientists will find the book engaging, and Manchester University Press has done an impressive job of reproducing an enormous number of illustrations and plates (including some beautiful colour ones).'
Paul Lawrence Farber, Annals of Science, January 2018

'The book itself is comprehensive but remains eminently readable, and as such it constitutes an important addition to the history of ornithology.'
Peter Lack, British Trust for Ornithology

'Henry Dresser was one of the leading ornithologists in Britain during the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th. In this book, Henry McGhie has drawn on previously unpublished diaries, letters and photographs held in Manchester Museum and archives held elsewhere, and written a vivid and comprehensive biography of this key figure . This is an informative, entertaining and generously illustrated book, representing excellent value.'
Bob McGowan, Scottish Birds

'This fine book includes 38 pages of references and a detailed bibliography of Dresser's own works. The coloured illustrations are beautifully reproduced: a drake Steller's Eider Polsticita stelleri looks as if it has just popped out of the Varanger Fjord, and even the endpapers have a lovely series of swan heads by Keulemans.'
IBIS, David Balance, International journal of avian science

'In 2000, Henry McGhie joined the Manchester Museum, and the day he arrived, he opened a large box and saw diaries, letters, and photographs from henry Dresser. As he read the diaries and letters, he became fascinated with Dresser, and he later found more of his correspondence in other museums. The Manchester Museum also contained Dresser's extensive collection of bird skins. Eventually, McGhie had access to enough information to write a biography. McGhie's main audience is obviously readers in the UK, but anyone with a general interest in the history of ornithology will enjoy McGhie's survey of social history when Dresser was active. Author and publisher deserve praise for producing this attractive book with fine colored plates.'
Frank N. Egerton, University of Wesconsin-Parkside, Journal of Field Ornithology

'I found this fascinating book revealing a period in natural history which I thought I knew more about, until now. But then to borrow the much used words of L.P. Hartley, 'the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.' One acquaintance described Dresser as 'possessed of demoniacal energy, boundless enthusiasm and immense application'; all the main attributes, I am sure you will agree, of the very best modern biological recorder.'
Stephen Moran, Highland News

Author

Henry A. McGhie is Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, the University of Manchester

Contents

Introduction
1 Family background and early life
2 Texas: the big adventure
3 Settling down to business
4 Early exploits in ornithological society
5 Collecting
6 'Discovering' the birds of Europe, I
7 'Discovering' the birds of Europe, II
8 Making The Birds of Europe
9 A central figure: society life in the 1870s
10 The 1880s: the rise of rivalry
11 The 1890s: the continuing rise of the British Museum (Natural History)
12 Working independently, 1900-5
13 The grand finale: the Eggs of the Birds of Europe
14 Time for a change
15 Legacies
Appendices
References
Bibliography of Henry Dresser
Index of birds
Index

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