Pizzey & Knight Ed 7

Subject: Pizzey & Knight Ed 7
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 11:37:58 +1100
G'day all
I have just returned to the list and seen the discussion about the new
edition of the Pizzey & Knight 'Field Guide to the Birds of Australia' that
took place just before Christmas. As someone who had a major role in its
preparation I feel I should respond to some of the comments and questions.

Firstly, the colour intensity of the plates was deliberately increased
because all involved with the book, including both Graham Pizzey and Frank
Knight, had been disappointed with the rather dull rendition in previous
editions. While I agree that the pendulum may have swung a bit too far the
other way for some plates, I believe that the result is an overall
improvement on earlier versions. Frank Knight, the Pizzey family and the
publishers all agree with this assessment. Getting colour renditions
consistently correct across 2500 images is no easy task, and I would rather
err on the side of brightness than dullness. Besides, if I can be pragmatic
for a moment, I suggest that shades of colour are rarely important in bird
identification. Rather, body structure, position of colour patches,
patterning of colour (striations, crescents etc) and levels of variation in
colour with age and plumage state etc are the key features that need to be
correctly conveyed.

Second, the question about how many editions of the work there have been.
Two points are pertinent:
   the definition of 'edition'. Check your dictionary or ask a librarian
   what constitutes a new edition - they will tell you that, in a
   bibliographic sense, any change to a work constitutes a new edition. If
   there have been no changes then it is a reprint. Even issuing the same
   work in paperback can be termed a new edition from the original
   hardback. Each issue of this book has been updated and improved,
   therefore the publishers are quite correct in considering that there
   have been 7 editions.
   Both the publishers and the Pizzey family felt that there had not been
   enough recognition given to the considerable improvements made to this
   work each time it has been re-issued. Other field guides, notably
   Simpson & Day, have made a point of promoting their new editions as just
   that, new editions. In contrast, HarperCollins have not done so with
   P&K, thereby perhaps giving the impression that it might be less current
   than some others. Our rapidly developing knowledge about species
   identification, distribution, status etc, plus taxonomic changes and new
   additions to the Australian list, and the long lead-time required to
   publish a book (effectively 10 months absolute minimum between
   completion of a manuscript and appearance on the shelves) make it
   incredibly difficult to maintain an up-to-date field guide. What is
   wrong with emphasising the fact that numerous improvements have been

Third, John Leonard asked what new changes have been made for the 7th ed. A
glance at the book will show that there are significant additions to the
introductory material, every distribution map was re-assessed and almost
500 of them were altered, some significantly, and hardly a text page was
free of editorial changes, [300-400 changes to individual pieces of
information] some minor, some major, but all improvements to what were
already the most comprehensive species accounts in any Australian bird
field guide. Twenty-five plates were improved and 5 species described and
illustrated for the first time. Many of these changes were planned to be
made by Graham before his untimely death, but over half of them were
instigated by me in my on-going role as scientific editor.

So, please give the book a thorough appraisal, rather than just glancing at
the plates, before forming an opinion of its utility. All constructive
comments will be gratefully received.

Peter Menkhorst

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