Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Natural History of Parrots

Prideaux John Selby - The Natural History of Parrots (1836)

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A catalog of parrot types for early 19th century naturalists.  It's still a bit technical (unless you know what culmen and tomia are) but as you'd expect from that period is well-written and full of nice little trivia.  The Alexandrine Ring-Parrakeet, for instance, was the only type known to the ancient Greeks - the name gives the reason.  The Festive Parrot is easily tamed and can imitate human speech while the Red and Blue Maccaw is neither.  The book starts with a brief biography of naturalist Thomas Bewick, apparently because it's a volume in a series and this just seemed a convenient spot to place it.

Since Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) is best known for Illustrations of British Ornithology it's probably redundant to say he was a British artist and ornithologist.  He took painting lessons from Audubon who named the Selby's Flycatcher after him.  (Audubon wrote, "I wish I could see John to tell him to draw all he can, for his and my sake."  The Audubon Reader, p180)