The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds
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I have long regretted my inability to issue a revised edition of 'Nests and Eggs'. For many years after the first Rough Draft appeared, I went on laboriously accumulating materials for a re-issue, but subsequently circumstances prevented my undertaking the work. Now, fortunately, my friend Mr. Eugene Oates has taken the matter up, and much as I may personally regret having to hand over to another a task, the performance of which I should so much have enjoyed, it is some consolation to feel that the readers, at any rate, of this work will have no cause for regret, but rather of rejoicing that the work has passed into younger and stronger hands.
One thing seems necessary to explain. The present Edition does not include quite all the materials I had accumulated for this work. Many years ago, during my absence from Shimla, a servant broke into my museum and stole thence several cwts. of manuscript, which he sold as waste paper. This manuscript included more or less complete life-histories of some 700 species of birds, and also a certain number of detailed accounts of nidification. All small notes on slips of paper were left, but almost every article written on full-sized foolscap sheets was abstracted. It was not for many months that the theft was discovered, and then very little of the MSS. could be recovered.
It thus happens that in the cases of some of the most interesting species, of which I had worked up all the notes into a connected whole, nothing, or, as in the case of Argya subrufa, only a single isolated note, appears in the text. It is to be greatly regretted, for my work was imperfect enough as it was; and this 'Selection from the Records,' that my servant saw fit to permit himself, has rendered it a great deal more imperfect still; but neither Mr. Oates nor myself can be justly blamed for this.
In conclusion, I have only to say that if this compilation should find favour in any man's sight he must thank Mr. Oates for it, since not only has he undergone the labour of arranging my materials and seeing the whole work through the press--not only has he, I believe, added himself considerably to those materials--but it is solely owing to him that the work appears at all, as I know no one else to whom I could have entrusted the arduous and, I fear, thankless duty that he has so generously undertaken.
Rothney Castle, Shimla,
Mr. Hume has sufficiently explained the circumstances under which this edition of his popular work has been brought about. I have merely to add that, as I was engaged on a work on the Birds of India, I thought it would be easier for me than for anyone else to assist Mr. Hume. I was also in England, and knew that my labour would be very much lightened by passing the work through the press in this country. Another reason, perhaps the most important, was the fear that, as Mr. Hume had given up entirely and absolutely the study of birds, the valuable material he had taken such pains to accumulate for this edition might be irretrievably lost or further injured by lapse of time unless early steps were taken to utilize it.
A few words of explanation appear necessary on the subject of the arrangement of this edition. Mr. Hume is in no way responsible for this arrangement nor for the nomenclature employed. He may possibly disapprove of both. He, however, gave me his manuscript unreservedly, and left me free to deal with it as I thought best, and I have to thank him for reposing this confidence in me. Left thus to my own devices, I have considered it expedient to conform in all respects to the arrangement of my work on the Birds, which I am writing, side by side, with this work. The classification I have elaborated for my purpose is totally different to that employed by Jerdon and familiar to Indian ornithologists; but a departure from Jerdon's arrangement was merely a question of time, and no better opportunity than the present for readjusting the classification of Indian birds appeared likely to present itself. I have therefore adopted a new system, which I have fully set forth in my other work.
I take this opportunity to present the readers of Mr. Hume's work with portraits of Mr. Hume himself, of Mr. Brian Hodgson, the late Dr. Jerdon, and the late Colonel Tickell.
EUGENE W. OATES.