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On Toucans And Hornbills: Readings In Early Modern Ornithology From Belon To Buffon

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents a chronological discussion of the principal texts on two bird families, Toucans and Hornbills, beginning with Pierre Belon du Mans in the sixteenth-century - the age of their discovery - and ending with Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon, who wrote the most influential ornithology of the Enlightenment. It enables us to outline the history of the scientific knowledge of both bird families. But as a case study it also hopes to show more: because the newly discovered birds were incorporated in the prevailing ornithological discourse and taxonomy, thus making continuous revisions necessary, this teaches us a lot about early modern zoology. The chapter shows that the rare, fragmentary and transitory material and the scattered oral, hand-written and printed information about the birds underline the need for every zoologist to maintain a wide and well-functioning social and scientific network and to have access to collections of non-professionals.

Keywords: Count of Buffon; early modern ornithology; early modern zoologists; Georges-Louis Leclerc; hornbills; Pierre Belon du Mans; toucans



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