THE appearance of the second volume of ' Birds ' with fewer pages than are contained in other volumes belonging to the ' Fauna of British India' requires a brief explanation.
When the ' Birds' were undertaken by Mr. Oates in 1888, he knew that it would not be possible to complete them within the two years of furlough to which he was entitled, but it was hoped both by him and by myself that he would obtain additional leave of absence. This has not proved to be the case, and within the time available Mr. Oates has only found it practicable to finish the Passerine Order, comprising about five ninths of all the species of birds found in India. As will easily be understood by those who have been engaged in similar scientific work, constant application has been necessary in order to accomplish this within the period mentioned.
The first volume of the 'Birds' having appeared in December of last year, there was, when Mr. Oates left England in August last, considerably less than another volume ready in manuscript. To have waited for a full volume to be prepared would have entailed considerable delay, and, under the circumstances, it has been thought best to publish at once a second volume of less bulk at a reduced price, and to leave the remaining birds to be described in a thicker third volume, the cost of which will he proportionately greater, so that the price of the two volumes together will remain unaltered. By this means descriptions of all Indian Passerine birds, which are more numerous than those of all other orders together, and which afford the greatest difficulties in identification, are placed at once in the hands of Indian ornithologists, whilst Mr. Oates's work is kept distinct from that of any other writer. I can only express my regret that Mr. Oates has been unable to finish the work he has so well begun.
The present is the second volume of the ' Fauna of British India' published in the current year, Mr. Boulenger's ' Reptilia and Batrachia' having been issued in August. The only part now wanting to complete the Vertebrata of the Indian Fauna, besides the third volume of Birds, is the second half of the volume containing Mammalia; and this half-volume, the greater portion of which is written, will, I hope, be completed early in 1891. It is not probable that the Birds can now be finished next year, but I propose to undertake the third volume as soon as the Mammalia are completed.
W. T. BLANFORD.