Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/577

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SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE.

Morphology and Noll's Physiology, or the general part, and the second the special part, or Schenk's Cryptogams and Schimper's Phanerogams.

 

Mr. William E. D. Scott seeks in his Bird Studies[1] to place before students and others who wish to acquire knowledge on birds a means to that end—in other words, to invite them to a more intimate acquaintance with them. To this work he brings, in the shape of original notes based on field work, the fruits of his own studies during the past thirty years; and has further consulted, to insure accuracy, the standard works on North American birds; and be believes that all the kinds of birds of the land known to occur in the cases dealt with down to November 1, 1897, are included in his treatise. We say birds of the land, because the water birds are not included, being reserved for another volume. The area covered—called eastern North America—is that part of the continent east of the Mississippi River, Lake Winnipeg, and the western borders of Hudson Bay, with Greenland and the islands which naturally associate themselves with the mainland of the region. In the descriptions the birds are not grouped by the usual systematic classifications, but as one would be most likely to meet them and according to the places they frequent. "It is believed that a knowledge of the birds nearest to us is the best point of departure, and is less liable to lead to mental confusion than if all the members of a given systematic group—as, for instance, all the thrushes or all the sparrows of the entire region—were to be introduced or placed before the student in a body." Certain kinds have come to associate themselves more, on the whole, with the regions round the house than with any other locality. Others are in the same way characteristic of the woodland, the field and meadow, bush, and swamp. After these the birds along the highway, "in the woods," "across the fields," "in marsh and swamp," and "by stream and pond" are described; and, finally, a systematic table of the land birds of eastern North America is given. The letterpress descriptions are models of what such articles should be when directed to untechnical readers—brief, comprehensive, direct,-and definite. The one hundred and sixty-eight illustrations are of various degrees of satisfactoriness. The pictures of live birds and nests and of bush surroundings are lifelike and true, but show the difficulty of managing outdoor light when the bird, and not the artist, selects the moment for taking the picture. The pictures of dead birds are mostly excellent photographs, but liable to objection in other respects; they do not show the bird as it is in life, and are useless for purposes of identification; they are not agreeable to look at, and, at a time when the most strenuous efforts are hardly sufficient to prevent destruction of the birds and secure their preservation, they are a bad example. The book would have been better if they had been left out of it.

 

Our impression as we take up Mr. Goldwin Smith's Guesses at the Riddle of Existence[2] is a strong one of the pity it is that we can not enjoy the reading of the books of the Bible free from the traditions with which they have been surrounded, and the glosses and scholasticism and false interpretations that have been put upon them. Here is a man, candid and one


  1. Bird Studies. An Account of the Land Birds of Eastern North America. With Illustrations from Original Photographs. New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 363. Price, $5.
  2. Guesses at the Riddle of Existence, and other Essays on Kindred Subjects. By Goldwin Smith. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 244. Price, $1.25.